The two Miami Beach commission candidates running for Group 6 agree on the importance of issues such as traffic reduction, climate change preparedness and improving quality of life — but they diverge on how to combat them.
The main source of conflict between candidates John Elizabeth Alemán and Mark Samuelian centers on Samuelian’s involvement with Miami Beach.
Alemán, a 47-year-old mother of two, has lived in Miami Beach for more than 21 years. She served 2010-13 as president of the North Beach Elementary Parent Teacher Association and in 2013 was awarded PTA president of the year out of 300 associations. Her pitch to voters is a deep understanding of the Miami Beach community, as well as her experience as an information technology consultant for Alemán Holdings.
Samuelian, a 51-year-old Boston native, bought his first home in Miami Beach in 2003 and became a permanent resident in 2013, records show. He is a residential-rental business owner, a co-owner of Capital Plus and a private financial investor. Samuelian’s pitch to voters focuses on his degree in industrial engineering and desire to cut unnecessary government spending
Samuelian put out an attack ad accusing Alemán of accepting a contribution from a prohibited vendor, someone who does business with the city. On April 29, Alemán received $250 from F. R. Alemán & Associates. She has no relation to the company, but said she is good friends with the owner. The contribution was returned on July 31.
During Samuelian’s time in Miami Beach, he helped begin the Alton Road Business Association, founded in 2014, and he served as its community affairs director.
An attack ad from Alemán’s side accuses Samuelian of prioritizing a $20,000 grant for the association over the multimillion dollar Alton Road construction project, an “investment in pumps to keep Miami Beach dry.”
After Alton Road reopened both north and southbound lanes a year ago, the association hosted a month-long series of business promotions called “Let’s Meet on Alton.” At a November 2014 commission meeting, Samuelian asked Miami Beach for a proclamation and money for a kickoff event hosted by the city.
The business association already had $5,000 in commitments toward their $25,000 budget. Samuelian, on behalf of association, asked the city for the remainder.
Association president Michael Gorey told commissioners that when his group spoke to Alton Road business people, they said a trolley and pumps wouldn’t help their businesses as much as a promotional event would.
Commissioner Michael Grieco, who proposed funding the event, got angry with the business people for discounting the multimillion dollar road project and told Gorey, “You lost me.”
Gorey explained that businesses just wanted extra support after the long period of closure.
Still annoyed, Greico withdrew support for the project. The commission voted not to fund the event, but to offer a proclamation.
On Oct 13, Samuelian announced that the business association endorsed his campaign, even though it became inactive in September — meaning it may no longer conduct business.
When contacted by a Miami Herald reporter on Thursday, Samuelian said it was the first he had heard about the organization’s inactive status.
Samuelian’s other endorsements are from term-limited Miami Beach Commissioners Ed Tobin and Deede Weithorn (whose husband Mark is running in Group 5 against Ricky Arriola), former Commissioners Nancy Liebman and Michael Gongora, and former City Attorney and Commissioner Jose Smith. Samuelian’s campaign is powered by donations from out of state, which he attributes to his friendships with people in his previous hometowns of New York and Boston.
Alemán, meanwhile, earned endorsements from Miami Beach Commissioners Joy Malakoff and Grieco, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the South Florida AFL-CIO, Firefighters of Miami Beach local 1510 and the SAVE Action PAC, as well as many individuals. Most of her donations are local to the city and county, and almost all come from within state lines.
While both candidates agree a “multimodal” approach to limit traffic congestion and promote mass transit is the solution to Miami Beach’s infamously crowded roads, Alemán favors a high-tech app that links residents to all alternative forms of transportation and a rail link from Miami International Airport to Miami Beach, among other improvements to existing infrastructure. Samuelian sees protected bike lanes and more city planning as the way to go.
In his fliers, Samuelian said he was “instrumental in the success of the Alton Road trolley,” as a member or ARBA. The free trolley was created in February 2014 by Miami Beach commissioners, a month before ARBA officially registered on Sunbiz.org.
One of the main clear division between the candidates is the Ocean Terrace Floor Area Increase. Samuelian opposes it; Alemán supports it.
Both oppose gambling and support the idea of the new Miami Beach Convention Center.
Early voting has begun in Miami Beach. Early-voting sites are open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends through Nov. 1.
▪ Miami Beach City Hall: 1700 Convention Center Dr.
▪ North Shore Branch Library: 7501 Collins Ave.
Voters in Miami Beach have several races on the ballot, including mayor and three commission seats.
Miami Beach Group 6 candidates
John Elizabeth Alemán
▪ Age: 47
▪ Occupation: Information Technology Consultant, Alemán Holdings
▪ Educational background: Stetson University, bachelor in business administration from University of Florida high honors, Florida International University professional certificate in e-Business sales and consulting
▪ Years as a Miami Beach resident: 21
▪ Previous public service: Chairperson for the City of Miami beach quality education committee, North Beach Elementary parent-teacher association executive board, Miami Beach senior high feeder pattern representative, North Beach Elementary School advisory committee
▪ Fundraising: Raised $155,200, spent $65,400 as of Oct. 1.
▪ Age: 51
▪ Occupation: Residential rental business owner (capital plus), private financial investor
▪ Educational background: Bachelor in industrial engineering cum laude from Georgia Institute of Technology, MBA in strategic management and marketing from University of Pennsylvania
▪ Years as a Miami Beach resident: 2
▪ Previous public service: Alumni co-chair of Penn Wharton public policy initiative, board member for Miami Beach United, pillar board member for Miami Beach chamber of commerce, community affairs director for Alton Road Business association, advisory board for pets’ trust miami, student lecturer for career day at Feinberg-Fisher School, Volunteer ethics lecturer at Miami-Dade ethics commission, member of Miami design preservation league, student mentor at Georgia Tech alumni club and volunteer chess tutor at Miami Beach High and Nautilus Middle School
▪ Fundraising: Raised $323,600, spent $175,800 as of Oct. 1.