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We at Calle Ocho News had the opportunity to interview a new kind of candidate for Miami Beach. Jonathan Welsh has served locally and internationally as a community organizer and leader and is asking your VOTE to be YOUR next commissioner in Miami Beach, Group 5. After receiving his degree, Jon served with the United States Peace Corps where he strengthened ties between government and other volunteer programs and planned and implemented health and wellness community programs in South Africa to address the needs of underserved youth. Upon returning to Miami Beach, he led many initiatives with the Alpha-1 Association, a not-for-profit health advocacy membership organization building a patient advocacy program that mobilized and engaged volunteers in advocacy activities at the state and Federal level. Jon expanded his community impact with joining the team at Care Resource Community Health Centers, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides health and support services to South Florida, where he plays an integral communications role. Jon has become a key community ambassador for expanding the impact of AIDS Walk Miami and The White Party.
What made you want to run for Miami Beach Commissioner?
The time is now to set the stage for a new era of Miami Beach. I want to create a new chapter that creates a new narrative for the city. Business incubators, angel investors, and a passionate community of entrepreneurs have transformed the mainland into an area brimming with creative energy and innovation. Florida’s powerhouse economy is continuing to grow and churn out new jobs, retiree migration to Florida is on the rise, and millennials are coming into their prime home-buying years. Brickell has become an international banking center with restaurant zones that sustains street life well into the early morning. I want that life to return to Miami Beach. The city has the talent, the diversity, and is a well-positioned global city. Now is the critical time to make smart investments that will secure Miami Beach’s long-term prospects for competition.
How do you plan on addressing sea level rise?
Miami Beach’s unique geography makes the city vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels. It is a long-term problem that all acknowledge exists and may threaten to worsen. Millions of our precious corals, a vital component of our marine ecosystem, are perishing at an alarming rate. According to Science Direct’s “Marine Pollution Bulletin", sediment covered 50–90% of adjacent reefs, 560,000 corals within 0.5 km of the channel were lost due to dredging and dredging has impacted corals and reef habitat at least 2.5 km and possibly greater than 10 km away. We must make sure combating sea level rise does not come at the health of our bay. I support an aggressive Stormwater Master Plan that protects property and natural resources. If sea level rises are to suppress property valuations, there will be less public money to address the risk. It is wise to accelerate investments in storm-water drainage improvements now. There is hope when there’s momentum to change.
You speak about Legacy, what does that mean to you?
We can all agree that the Ocean Drive/Collins Avenue Historic District, is the most important tourist destination in Miami Beach. It's the apex destination for visitors and is the foundation of Miami Beach’s cultural image. Without it, we risk becoming Disney World. We have a legacy to protect and it rests at the center of historical preservation. Legacies are built on an aesthetic that can be easily tampered with if not managed properly. I am not against new development, rather, I am for the proper management of our iconic landscape. I fully support the restoration of the hotels, but if we support huge height increases today, how soon will come to the next height increase? In 20 years, will we recognize what made our city the number one destination in the world? In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was established because they understood: "the spirit and direction of the nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage." Miami Beach's landscape has the largest collection of Art Deco in the country, with over 2,100 preserved places. We must preserve and protect our irreversible heritage for future generations.
How do you feel about the transportation options available in our city?
The City has made worthy strides with increasingly mobility with the trolleys. I would like to see more dedicated bike lanes to support eco-friendly mobility and to further support bike rentals and to decrease traffic. I emphatically support ideas and partnerships that connect Miami Beach with the mainland, the Miami International Airport, the Brightline and more. Poor connectivity to the rest of South Florida, translates to poor connectivity to the world.
Please make sure to vote on November 5. For more information, to donate or to become involved, visit Vote www.votejonwelsh.com
Rosi R. Rodriguez
Editor in Chief