Jim Fried’s Q & A

  1. Name: Jim Fried
  2. Address:
    • The Hamilton 555 NE 34th Street, Apt 2601
    • Edgewater, Miami, FL 33137
    • Email: JimFriedforMiami@gmail.com
  3. Telephone: 305 773 6300
  4. Date and place of birth: Florida
  5. Occupation and employer: Real Estate
  6. Office sought/Group: City of Miami Commissioner District 2
  7. Political experience. List offices held, unsuccessful races including the year, and campaign work done for others:
  8. Education. List from high school on, including college, professional, or technical studies:North Miami High School
    University of Florida
  9. Indebtedness. List any loans that you have obtained or made to others that are not secured by a real estate, mortgage or lien on personal property:
  10. Business interests. List your interests in corporations, partnerships and other enterprises, as well as the location and value of real estate owned by you, in whole or in part:
  11. Your approximate net worth: $250,000+
  12. Spouse’s name:  Vivian
  13. Spouse’s occupation and employer:  n/a
  14. Children’s names and ages:  n/a
  15. Do you or your spouse have business dealings with any governmental agency? No
  16. List employment history for the last five years:Sandstone Realty Advisors
  17. List your civic activities during the past five years:Jewish Federation
    Mentoring
  18. How long have you lived in Miami? 25+ years.
  19. How much do you expect to spend on this campaign? $125,000
  20. Of that, how much is your own money?  $10,000
  21. List your major contributors and endorsers: Most of my main contributors have known me for 15 to 25 years.
  22. Why did you decide to run for this office?
    • I can help. The City of Miami needs help.  There is a lack of planning.  The City needs to do a better job planning for the short, medium and long term. I am dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community. City employees need to be better at Customer Service.I believe the office of Commissioner can be a useful platform to highlight and resolve the challenges our community faces. I feel comfortable reviewing budgets and making the tough decisions that need to be made as elected officials allocate money and resources.
    • Public safety and security are crucial to our continued success.  If it is easier to commit a crime than to get a good paying job then something is wrong with our city.  As Commissioner, I want to guarantee that the fundamentals for new jobs and wealth creation are in place so that in 8 years from now, when I am no longer Commissioner, we can see a true revitalization that showcases clean streets and bustling businesses in ALL our neighborhoods.
  23. What would be your three priorities as a Miami elected official?
    1. Planning. I think City of Miami elected leaders and administrators should do a better job of planning for the future.  There needs to be better short, medium and long term planning.  I can help.
    2. Corruption. City officials excessively pander to connected insiders.
    3. We have a bloated City budget. We have allowed taxes and fees to be too high. Our expenses greatly exceed our constituent’s ability to pay.
    4. Public Safety.
      • I would encourage the City Manager and the Police Chief to put more police on the street.  The perception is that there is too much crime.  In too many neighborhoods the reality is there is too much crime.   I would encourage the City Manager and the Police Chief to emphasize the quality of the police hires and not just the quantity of certified police officers.
      • I would encourage the City Manager and the Fire Chief to be more efficient with the Fire Departments $160+ Mil budget.
      • I would encourage the City Manager and the Police Chief to be more efficient with the Police Department’s $270+ Mil budget.
      • In 2017-2018 City officials spent $366 Million on Public Safety. In 2019-2020 City officials propose to spend $426 Million. Is this money being spent efficiently?
      • We have to change perceptions and face reality about crime if we are to encourage jobs to move to the City and especially to District 2.
    5. New and better jobs.
      • We need to attract new jobs and new businesses to District 2 by working with county officials to make improvements, such as water and sewer infrastructure, that will attract outside investment; streamline the regulatory process providing a walkthrough between the various regulatory agencies (i.e. DERM, WASD, County and City Planning and Building Departments).
      • Accountability and Accessibility: Ask for city expenses to be regularly posted online.   (I believe that goal has been accomplished).  Offer office hours once a week in locations throughout the District; encourage a “customer service” attitude for city employees and develop a better relationship between city departments and communities.
      • If business owners feel confident they will make further investments in Miami.
  24. Assess the city’s overall financial condition and labor contracts. As of August 2019, the city had a reserve fund of $130+/- Million. Is this adequate? Do you support the current plan to increase the budget?
    • The City’s reserves are still NOT adequate.   Mayor Francis Suarez needs to do more.  It appears he is using increased real estate assessed values and increased Real Estate Taxes to increase the budget.  The 2018-2019 Budget was $35 Mil higher than the 2017-2018 budget.  The proposed 2019-2020 Budget is $40+ Million higher than the 2018-2019 Budget.
    • Many taxpayers, especially many commercial taxpayers, are seeing large increases to their taxes.  I would like to see the City reduce spending rather than increase taxes. City officials must do more with less.
    • The City has a legal requirement that was imposed after severe budget deficiencies in the 1990’s.  I believe the City should maintain $130+ Mil in its reserves.  In 2004+/- the City had a budget surplus of $140 Mil.
    • Infortunately, after eight years under the Mayor Manny Diaz Administration the City faced a budget deficit of $100+ Mil.  Newly elected Mayor Tomas Regalado did a great job digging us out of that hole.
    • I would like the City to have a budget surplus of closer to $130+ Mil or two months of revenues, which are about $140+ Mil, whichever is higher.  We never know when we will get hit by a hurricane or other catastrophic event.
    • The $40+ Mil tax increase for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is largely funded by increased property tax revenue from appreciating real estate values.  The balance comes from fees and fines.  Relying on increased property tax revenue to justify budget increases should remind us of what happened to City finances following the 2007-2008 real estate market bust. If the real estate market declines, as it did in 2008-2011, then the projected revenue that all city departments including the City of Miami Public Safety Departments count on will be targeted for cuts.
    • We should be discussing ways to maintain or improve levels of service and try to have our departments manage their budgets better so they can do more with less.
    • I will vote to direct the City Manager to reduce spending.  I think government should be smaller.  I think the taxpayers should NOT be burdened by taxes.  I want the private sector investing in their businesses.  I want the private sector to be spending money on their employees.  The private sector will be more likely to invest if it feels confident.
  25. How should Miami fix the pension program in the long term?
    • There MUST be a solution to this problem. The pension expense is an unfair burden on taxpayers.
    • City of Miami employees, executives and elected officials are the beneficiary of   5-6 different pension schemes.  Private sector employees do not have this largess, yet it is private sector employees and private sector taxpayers who are required to pay the vast majority of the retirement benefits to public sector employees.  This is a problem that needs a solution.
    • I oppose the recent effort of Keon Hardemon and other City officials to re-open the Elected Officials Retirement Plan that was closed during the 2008-2010 Credit Crisis. No elected official should be given a Defined Benefit Pension Plan worth perhaps $2 Million or more WITHOUT paying in a dime. In addition, fully vesting after only 6 years? This is an insult to taxpayers.
    • By definition, Defined Benefit Pensions are an incentive to recruit the best employees possible.  Historically, Defined Benefit Pensions have been an inducement to overcome uncompetitive annual salaries.  That is the perception.  The reality is that the vast majority of public sector employees, especially in Miami, make far more pay than their private sector counterparts.  And we now know that public sector benefit programs are FAR more extensive and generous than any offered in the private sector.  There are NO Fortune 500 companies in the Retail, Health Care, Wholesale or Construction industries that offer Defined Benefit Pension Plans.  None.
    • I have an acquaintance who manages $30 million in real estate for investors. He has achieved average annual returns in access of 25% yet he only receives a salary of $24,000 and he gets NO health insurance, NO pension and NO benefits.   Compare that to a City Department Director who has minimal accountability yet makes $140,000 per year with $60,000 in benefits, a take home vehicle, and a defined benefit pension plan that gives him/her a $80,000+ per year retirement benefit after 20 years of service.
    • Over 72% of the City’s $1 Billion budget goes to pay and benefits.  This is not sustainable. The City can save hundreds of millions of dollars in the next 10 years if it introduces a Defined Contribution Retirement Program for new employees or a hybrid program combination plan.  A pension contribution of 20% from the City and 10% from employees should provide the necessary cost savings and maintain a generous pension for our first responders.  Experts can help us solve this problem.
    • The City can also consider floating a bond to buy out the City pension plans and convert every employee into the State of Florida Retirement System.
    • In October 2014 there was an article in the New York Times about Holland and how the Dutch are solving this problem.
    • http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/business/no-smoke-no-mirrors-the-dutch-pension-plan.html?_r=0
    • We would do well to implement many of the solutions utilized by the Dutch.
  26. Do you support the city’s plans to overhaul the waterfront next to City Hall in Coconut Grove? How would you vote on the upcoming referendum?
    • Coconut Grove voters overwhelmingly voted AGAINST the 2016 Referendum Question.  Obviously, there were problems. It is now 2019 and construction has barely started. I have researched the proposed plans submitted by the lone bidder for the Grove Waterfront thoroughly.  I know the Sasaki Plan was thoroughly debated from 2005-2008.  The City has a problem with clearly communicating to its residents proposed public projects.   The Grove Waterfront issue is controversial.   More public input should have been allowed.   It appears the writing of the referendum is too broad to offer residents a clear picture as to what will be built.   I support the majority of Grove residents who opposed excessive commercialization of the Grove waterfront.
  27. A commissioner proposed a charter change that would give the commission, and not the city manager, sole power to hire and fire the police chief and fire chief. What do you think of this idea? 
    • I am opposed.  Elected officials should set policy and vote on budget items.  I believe the City Manager should be our CEO and the City Manager should be the direct conduit with our Public Safety experts.  Having said that, our City Manager must be very skilled.
  28. What do you think of the casino complex that the Genting Group has proposed for the Miami Herald site? Is that an appropriate use for that location?
    • I am opposed to a casino complex in downtown Miami.  I think Miami and its employee base are growing organically.   Casinos have a history of causing problems for communities.   Think Las Vegas.  Recall the various bankruptcies and urban problems in Atlantic City.  A casino complex in the center of Miami might encourage blight.   Generally speaking, the area where the Miami Herald site was located was never planned to accommodate the traffic a large casino resort might draw.  Poor urban planning has encouraged development in parts of the City with insufficient traffic circulation capacity, mass transit options and poor pedestrian and biking access.
    • Why not locate proposed massive projects further west away from our crucial Biscayne Boulevard and NE 2nd Avenue corridors?
    • Now that Downtown is becoming much more developed whatever commercially intensive project comes to the OMNI and Edgewater areas must increase the quality of life for area residents.
  29. What should the city do to increase the supply of affordable housing?
    • The City of Miami should offer zoning and financial incentives for developers to build mixed income housing.  In addition, the City should streamline the process for getting approvals and permits.
    • I have been told that Miami is one of the few major cities in the United States that continues to build new and expensive “low income only” vertical housing.  The reason why the Federal Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) demolished over 140,000 units of affordable housing projects throughout the United States was because “warehousing poor people” did not work.  They were vertical towers “warehousing the poor” and they became centers of increased blight, poverty and crime.
    • Among various strategies for affordable housing that have been successfully implemented around the country there are two options that I would encourage as commissioner:
    • Mixed Income and Mixed Use.
    • The City has thousands of properties that are vacant and it has far too many abandoned homes that should be purchased and rehabilitated into affordable housing.  We know that new affordable housing units can cost the taxpayers $275 to $350 per square foot through traditional tax credit housing programs. That compares to single-family homes and condos in those same locations or better locations that sell for $80 to $150 per square foot.
    • Affordable housing can be created that varies income levels.  If the City continues to build affordable housing units it should be done with various tiers of household incomes. Rather than “warehouse” a population in single use towers you can improve the living standards for everyone by diversifying the population. Consider Inclusionary Zoning, which works well in many cities.
    • The City must make it easier for owner/users and for real estate investors to buy troubled homes and properties that are encumbered by liens and fines.  Too often the obstacles to getting a clean title prevent a perfectly usable home from being occupied.
  30. What do you think of the current initiatives to bring economic viability to Overtown, Little Havana, Wynwood, West Little River, Lemon City, Allapattah and other distressed/emerging neighborhoods?
    • I am opposed to blanket incentives.  I am not sure they work.  Now, I will NOT vote to deny any Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money but I think the best way to improve any neighborhood is “building by building, block by block”.   I do not think the current system of handing out “grants” works.  Sure, a few well connected recipients get a windfall but I have a long term vision.
    • We all saw the SEOPW CRA blithely hand out $80 Million to $280 Mil in grants and/or gifts at a late December 2014 CRA Meeting.   I recommend better accountability.
    • For there to be economic viability in the urban core everyone needs to be better educated and everyone must feel safe.  People must feel they have opportunities.
    • A big problem with many urban neighborhoods is that they are full of non-conforming structures due to the Miami 21 zoning ordinance. The moral hazard of Miami 21 encourages redevelopment by making it too expensive to repair, upgrade or rebuild existing buildings.  Miami 21 imposes a burden against older buildings requiring them to incur heavy costs to bring it up to code.  Further, Miami 21 has parking requirements that are sometimes impossible to meet.  People often state that the Miami 21 Code aggressively disrespects adaptive reuse.
    • A 50 to 70 year old commercial building can offer rents of $8 to $10 per square foot.  When that same building is renovated it can command better tenants and rents of $12 to $40 per square foot.   New buildings in good locations like Wynwood can demand much higher rents often in $30 to $60 per square foot range.
    • The availability of lower rents provides a low cost option for start-up “mom and pop” businesses.  The older buildings in Lemon City, Little River, Attapatah and West Little River provide incubator spaces for newer companies and artists.  But rents in those buildings are up 15% to 50% as new owners do adaptive reuse.
    • The City can encourage economic viability by encouraging adaptive reuse.
    • A functional problem is the Planning, Building Public Works and Fire Departments not being on the same page as to what additional costs new projects are required to incur which can lead to “surprises” in the range of $15 psf to $50 psf, often killing a project before it starts. This bureaucratic confusion is a job killer.   The process for real estate development must be improved.
  31. Is the city prepared to cope with a strike by a major hurricane? What would you do to make sure that the city and its residents are ready to cope with a strong hurricane?
    • I hope so.  Because of the South Florida Building Code buildings in the City of Miami are built to the strongest building codes in the country. However, the catastrophe of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy along the coastline of New Jersey and New York proved that flooding from storm surge and wind and rain can devastate unprepared areas. In 2017 Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Irma caused devastation.
    • The City of Miami is untested in major rain or wind events. In particular, the 2005 Hurricane Wilma was a weak hurricane that hit South Florida and it did too much damage.
  32. What should the city do to improve the downtown area?
    • The City needs to clean up Downtown.  Downtown must be safe.  Code Compliance must make sure property owners maintain their properties in a code compliant manner.  The City has encouraged the development of tall skyscrapers.  The City must plan for better infrastructure.  Builders need efficient water and sewer, parks, roads, green space, mass transit and pedestrian and bike friendly streets.
    • I have been meeting with Downtown residents and with Downtown business owners. They tell me they need help. They need a commissioner who represents them.
    • I am very encouraged to see a new investor, Moishe Mana, spending $320+ Million on buildings Downtown, especially on Flagler Street.  We hope Mr. Mana and his plans will be the shot in the arm Downtown needs. We hope he starts renovating soon.
  33. What is your assessment of the development plans for Watson Island, Bicentennial Park and Virginia Key?
    • I am disappointed.  City of Miami has a rich historical and cultural heritage.  Miami’s taxpayer owned waterfront property is a rare commodity that should be planned properly.  It should be maintained for public use whenever possible.
    • The City’s efforts on Watson Island have been a HUGE failure.  Jungle Garden owed over $50 Mil to various lenders including HUD, the County and the City before it was bought out.  Now it appears, landscaping and trees will be killed so a massive hotel can be built.
    • On Watson Island the Island Gardens developer won an RFP over sixteen years ago and has yet to put a shovel in the ground.   The “Biscayne Times” did an October 2014 cover story called, “For the Birds, Watson Island: Where developers dreams turn to dust”.  The City approved a Children’s Museum on Watson Island and then a sharp eyed operator exploited a loophole and converted the museum into two Charter Schools and a platform for three illegal LED billboards. This abuse of the taxpayers must stop.
    • The City of Miami Beach Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously to take “any and all steps necessary” to slow or stop the Island Gardens scheme.
    • Bicentennial Park was a 28 acre waterfront park that has been ignored or misused by the City of Miami for decades.  Several years ago, the City handed over 8-9 acres to two museums that spent perhaps $1 Billion, including debt service, to construct two buildings.  Neither museum has meaningful endowments.   The debt service is another hurdle for taxpayers.
    • Virginia Key Park has potential but it is not terribly accessible.  I hope the Marine Stadium can be repaired and put back in use in a self-supporting manner.  I am very concerned about Marine Stadium and Virginia Key. I support the Virginia Key Master Plan and I oppose schemes to overly commercialize the park.
    • Parcel B is a 4 acre waterfront site behind the AA Arena.  It should be a world class waterfront park.  Instead, the County and the Miami Heat keep it as an asphalt parking lot.  What a missed opportunity.
  34. Is there more the City Commission could do to ensure ethical conduct in all areas of city government?
    • Improve morale.  Punish corruption.  Foster a culture of service and honesty.  The biggest problem when it comes to ensuring ethical conduct of City of Miami government is the issue of morale and culture. The City of Miami has a history and a culture that enables scofflaws, laziness and fraud to impact the level of service provided by the City.  Politics plays too much of a role in the everyday operations of the City.
    • I meet hundreds of City employees and City residents every month.  Too often I hear stories of residents disappointed by City employees.
    • The City Commission can support a different style of management based on getting things done with a smile rather than politics as usual.
    • One idea that continues to come up is to require all employees to live in the City.  Certainly, unless a potential City employee can prove a hardship all new hires should live within the City.
  35. What can Miami do to prepare for rising sea levels that will affect Biscayne Bay?
    • City of Miami has to engage with its regional partners to ensure that we have plans in place to militate against sea level rise. Our zoning and building codes may need to change to anticipate future disasters.
    • City officials should NOT be spending time and money attempting to demolish 73+ acres of Melreese Park to benefit a speculator who wants to cover the site in concrete. We all know water from rains, storms and hurricanes gravitates to green areas. The City needs more grass and trees, not less.
  36. Do you support the city’s plans to overhaul the waterfront next to City Hall in Coconut Grove? How would you have voted on the recent referendum? See #26 above.
  37. The 2019-2020 budget provides for more police officers.  Enough? What would you do about that? 
    • The City has a problem of crime. Many residents and members of the commission have debated that having more police officers on patrol will reduce crime. I agree.
    • The real issue here is the management problem in the City of Miami Police Department is that it is not keeping on or hiring enough new police officers to replace those retiring despite having been allocated sufficient budget in past years to do so. Also, given the crime wave the City is experiencing the lack of police officers on patrol could be improved by appropriating officers on desk duty to active patrol duty.  We recognize this is a problem being solved in the 2019-2020 Budget. We might have the sufficient manpower but it appears we do not have the willingness to take measures that would be appropriate to aggressively fight crime.
    • I hope Police Chief Colina can continue to affect positive change.
  38. How do you feel about the 2015 federal investigation of the police department? Is it necessary? What would you do to improve the department’s performance? Do you support the current police chief? 
    • The 2015 Federal Investigation was completely appropriate.  Residents and police experts have questioned the Police Department and a careful review was helpful.
    • I believe community policing rather crisis response should be the appropriate strategy for policing in the City of Miami.
    • Right now, we have a Police Department that does not encourage police officers to leave their vehicles and meet with locals to develop a trust relationship.  Things are getting better in this regard.  Residents and business owners should be well-aware who their assigned police officers are and work with them to tackle repeat sources of crime in a community.
    • The performance of the current police chief should not be underestimated. He inherited a police department recently under federal investigation, with staffing problems and with a political climate that makes it difficult for any chief to manage a department.  We hope Police Chief Colina can make further progress.
  39. Discuss the city fight to defend itself from SEC investigations in court over the alleged violations involving securities fraud in the issuance of municipal bond offerings? Do you believe the city committed any violations?
    • Mayor Tomas Regalado and Herald articles stated the SEC investigation is looked into the vote and financing surrounding the Marlins Stadium and Garage(s) deal.  That was in 2008-2010.  Those events occurred under a prior Mayor’s administration and I believe the SEC is looked into elected officials and executives who are no longer with the City.
    • I have been told the City paid over $100,000 per month for outside attorneys to defend the City and its former staffers.  Perhaps $2 Million or more in legal fees?  I would like the City to reduce its legal expenses.   The City should only fight the SEC if it makes sense in order to protect our credit rating. The SEC lawsuit claims and rightly so that monies were illegally transferred by previous administrations to cover deficits and make it appear that our finances were in good shape when they were not.  Allegedly, not only were the SEC and bondholders lied to but also so were residents and business owners.  I cannot speak to the specifics of any possible future indictments.
  40. What would you do to improve schools in the City of Miami?
    • The City of Miami is NOT responsible for the School system. Clearly, we need better educated children and we need better educated employees.  We want every citizen to have access to all the best opportunities.
    • The Miami-Dade County School Board is responsible for schools.  But as your Commissioner I can speak up.  I can advocate for a better educational system from kindergarten right up through college and do not forget vocational schools…  I have a strong advocate for trade schools and technical training for any person with aptitude. (Plumbers and electricians earn $70 per hour…)
    • The top 1 percent of earners in New York City make nearly 40 percent of the total income of city residents, nearly twice the national figure. This number has grown. At the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure in 2002, the top 1 percent of earners in New York made 27 percent of the income.  It is worth considering these numbers in the context of the previous gilded age, the era of Oliver Stone’s first “Wall Street,” in 1985, when the wealthiest 1 percent of New Yorkers made 15 percent of the city’s income, virtually in line with the national figure at the time.
    • (According to the Comptroller of the City of New York the median income for employees in the securities industry is currently $362,000 per year.)   The average employee at Goldman Sachs makes almost $390,000 per year.  The average employee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami makes $27,000 per year.
    • The median income for a single male in the City of Miami is $29,000 per year.  (In New York City it is $65,000+/- per year).
  41. Why are you considering running for City Commissioner?
    • I can help.  I can help improve the quality of life for City of Miami residents.
  42. What ideas do you have for property-tax reform? How would you achieve your goals?
    • The first step is for governments at all levels to reduce spending.  Elected officials must force administrators to reduce expenses.   We need to reform our priorities in Tallahassee. We need to reform our priorities at the County and at the City.  But the first step is reducing the size of government.  Government administrators must do more with less.
  43. What would you do about the state’s pension program?
    • See question 25 above.  Ever escalating pension and pay and benefit expenses for public sector employees is one of the greatest problems facing America today.  I would support caps on pension benefits.  I would support larger employee contributions to pension plans.  I would support converting Defined Benefit pension plans to Defined Contribution plans.   I would support working with all stakeholders to make sure that we have a well-funded, well-regulated pension system that honors all our stakeholders.
  44. What, if any, changes to Florida’s Sunshine Law would you support?
    • There are five things we need to immediately to strengthen ethics in our State government:
      1. Apply Florida’s sunshine laws to Tallahassee. It is embarrassing that our legislature passed a law to “bring Florida into the sunshine” and then refuses to abide by it.
      2. Prohibit Florida State Legislators from lobbying governmental entities or municipalities in the State of Florida.
      3. Prohibit campaign contributions from lobbyists and businesses that lobby City of Miami elected officials or receive City contracts.
      4. Require all City officials and City employees to conduct government business using their government provided E-mail accounts and their government provided cell phones.  Officials should not be conducting business on their personal E-mail accounts and on their personal phones as all too often that is used as a device to evade public scrutiny.
      5. I would propose legislation to make it easier for citizens and journalists to file lawsuits over Freedom of Information Act violations.
  45. What do you think about Melreese Park and the proposal to give 73+ acres to Jorge Mas using a No-Bid contract?
    • I oppose giving 73+ acres of Melresse Park to a speculator. First, we all know the City of Miami has a shortage of park space. Miami ranks last in park space per capita for cities Miami’s size. Two, I believe we need MORE grass and trees, not less. We need more open green space, NOT more concrete, more office buildings, more hotels and more malls. Third, I oppose the use of No-Bid contracts to give away taxpayer owned land. Fourth, I support Commissioners Manuel Reyes and Wily Gort who oppose the scheme to demolish Melreese Park and give a No-Bid deal to a connected speculator.
  46. What do you think about Morningside Park and City officials plan to renovate?
    • I support Elvis Cruz and Eileen Bottari and all the Morningside and Biscayne Corridor residents and stakeholders who are appalled the Morningside Pool has been closed for over three years. I wish City officials would do a better job listening to stakeholders.
  47. What do you think about the proposed changes to the Zoning Code affecting Coconut Grove properties?
    • I dislike any scheme that pits neighbors against neighbors. I am appalled to learn from residents and from a recent Miami Herald story that so many new Grove buildings have been built in violation of existing rules.
  48. What do you think about Miami 21? Special Area Plans?
    • Miami 21 has its good points and its bad points. I definitely believe the Special Area Plan (SAP) loophole needs to be removed.
  49. Are you related to State Agricultural official Nikki Fried? Is she supporting you?
    • Nikki Fried is my niece. I am more concerned with supporting Nikki than I am concerned with her supporting me. She has a big job to do and I am proud of what she does. I have not asked her to get involved in this race. But I know she will be proud of the work I do as a Miami commissioner.
  50. What can be done to help the bottom 20% in Miami?
    • In a capitalistic society there will always be a bottom 20%. How do we improve the conditions for the bottom 20%? There are many solutions, none are easy. We need a great school system and we need great vocational training. Not everyone will be a doctor or a computer programmer, but there are many fine vocational careers such as mechanics, plumbers, electricians and so forth. These jobs must pay a living wage. There is no easy solution. There must be better opportunities and better access to skills training. There must be less crime throughout the city so these programs can be broader based, bringing vocational teachers to the neighborhoods that are in the most need. Our city will only be great if our bottom 20% gets better.
  51. What are your thoughts on the environment?
    • I support all 10 points of Florida’s Environmental Bill of Rights.
    • I think the biggest environmental problems facing Florida are:
      1. Climate Change and inevitable sea level rise.
      2. Excessive reliance of fossil fuels for transportation.
      3. Government not doing enough to protect the Everglades National Park and its adjacent lands.
    • I oppose Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioners Ken Russell, Keon Hardemon and Joe Carollo’s efforts to demolish 73+ acres of Melreese Park.  They want to help a speculator cover this public park in concrete, including office buildings, a hotel and a mall. Miami needs more grass and trees, NOT less.
    • I am disappointed Watson Island is NOT being converted into a public park. This crucial gateway to Miami Beach and Miami should have become a world class park.
    • I oppose more dredging of Miami’s Government Cut. The last several times the Miami Port and the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Government Cut it created an environmental disaster for Biscayne Bay. There is almost no sea grass left.  There has been incredible damage to our local coral reefs.
    • I support efforts to eliminate septic tanks in Miami-Dade County and connect everyone to the County sewage system.
    • I support the 800+ acres of Virginia Key Park. I oppose the City of Miami’s efforts to add new commercial buildings, including hotels and event spaces to this park.
    • I oppose the excessive commercialization of ALL our public parks.
    • I oppose the City of Miami decision to allow Ultra music festival to take over 100% of waterfront Bayfront Park for 3-5 months of every Winter. I like Ultra, BUT I oppose Ultra taking over this crucial Downtown Park.
    • I am particularly opposed to how the City ignored Downtown residents
      AND how the City ignored the Bayfront Park Trust Board of Directors and other steps required for a crucial decision like this.
    • I support efforts to use the FEC Corridor to allow local stops to transport residents and tourists.
    • I support efforts to create a greenway/walk/bike corridor along the FEC Corridor.
    • I am open minded to hear from the plethora of experts who are working hard to educate Florida’s elected officials.
  52. What is your opinion about Baywalks and Riverwalks?
    • The Baywalk and a Riverwalk have been discussed for over 20 years.
    • The City has rules on the books. Often a Baywalk or a Riverwalk is a condition
      of approval for a project. Unfortunately, the City has not been aggressive at enforcing its rules.
    • Sometimes developers do not add a promised baywalk or riverwalk and sometimes they
      provide one that is tiny and ugly and much smaller than they promised.
    • Often developers max out a site and they invade the space that is supposed to be used for the Baywalk or a Riverwalk. Again, City officials must be vigilant.
    • Another problem is a lack of uniformity. Some elevations from property to property are different AND sometimes the hardscape and the landscaping look quite different.
    • Obviously, the City would benefit from an amazing Baywalk and Riverwalk system.
  53. What are your thoughts on the Coconut Grove Playhouse?
    • I support a renovated Playhouse. What a shame it has been closed for over a decade. Experts have told us that the South Florida market can only support a theater with a maximum of 300 seats. Plus, the County is paying for the majority of the renovation and they refuse to pay for more than 300 seats. Ken Russell supports the plan with a theatre of 700-900 seats along with a smaller theatre of 250 seats. His plan will cost 3 times more than the County plan AND it will guarantee massive operating losses. Bigger spaces, more seats MUCH bigger overhead.  I favor the County plan. It fits our market AND it fits our budget. The litigation has to stop – we need to stop making attorneys rich on the taxpayers dime!
  54. What are your thoughts on gun safety?
    • I am appalled at gun violence. I am appalled at the ease with which unqualified people are able to buy firearms. I oppose Assault Rifles being sold to the public. I support legislation that protects the public and that reduces violence from firearms.
  55. What is your position on a living wage?
    • I support a living wage for everyone. People should make at least $15 per hour.
  56. In conclusion:
    • Let me say that I feel I will be a great elected official.  I listen.  I have no ties or obligations to any developers or campaign contributors.   Being Commissioner will be my only job.  Like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor (and now Senator) Cory Booker I will hire the best staffers I can find.  I will hire the best and the brightest.   I am confident enough to surround myself with smart people.

Thank you.

Jim Fried