Commissioner Ken Russell's Speech at the Swearing in Ceremony

It’s amazing to me that this day is actually here.  People are looking up here and wondering “Who is this guy and How did this happen?!”.  And they’re also thinking, “Is he old enough to be a commissioner?”   Don’t be fooled that’s just good genes.  Thanks mom.  In fact, of my fellow commissioners, I’ll be the third oldest and the third youngest on the dais.  And while I’m thanking my mom, let’s thank her properly.  Stand up and take a bow, mom.  Kazuyo Russell came to Miami from Japan in the 1960s.   And you know when she takes a bow, she does it right.  My wife Juliana is here with our lovely daughters.  I will admit those cuties got me more than a couple votes.  And my amazing son August is here.  Please come over here August. If nothing else, I want my son to look at this crowd and know that in his life that anything is possible. Now, In the time honored tradition of children being embarrassed by their parents, I’m going to force him to take a selfie with me in the middle of city hall right now and I’m going to post it on Instagram.  You can find that @kenrussellmiami#ilovemiami #newgenerationofleadership

Mayor Regalado, and my esteemed new colleagues, chairman Gort, vice chair Hardemon, commissioners Suarez and Carollo, thank you for welcoming me here. Mayor Ferre, Consul General Okaniwa, our elected officials, Pastor Chambers and my fellow neighbors:

To everyone gathered I thank you for being here on this day after a hard-fought and exciting campaign with a bit of a plot twist at the end.

I realize many people might consider this ceremony today a simple formality or even political pageantry. Well, it’s a lot more than that.  The fact that I am standing before you today, taking the oath to serve our city, is proof that the basic tenants of our democracy still work.  

So many had become jaded with the idea that elections are bought and sold by the powers that be. They didn’t believe their votes would make a difference.  But not this year.  The voters listened to nine candidates and packed the halls of many debates.  And once they had made their choice, the voice of the voters was louder than the polling and louder than the money.  Their voice called for change and the result was only a surprise to those who weren’t listening.

As I assume this charge to represent the citizens of District 2, I see Miami as but a teenager in the realm of global cities. 

Steel-and-glass buildings rise in Brickell. Tens of thousands are moving into our urban core. Entire neighborhoods of newcomers are sprouting nearly overnight in places like Edgewater and Downtown. Thousands of families, including my own, in the Grove, Morningside, Bay Point, and Golden Pines continue on with their daily lives. Children grow and play, careers and lives are made; in short, people keep choosing to make Miami their home.  And I welcome the healthy growth that comes with that.

Of course, no forward momentum comes without its challenges. Tremendous growth and an unbelievable change in the demographics of the city have not been matched with the infrastructure that’s needed to support it.  This has led to unacceptable levels of traffic, inadequate public transportation and deteriorated streets and sidewalks. In our interest of fast-tracking the visionary plans of development, resident concerns about how these changes will affect their quality of life have fallen on deaf ears.  But the voice of the voter has grown to where even the deaf ear must listen to the call for change.

I expect my actions moving forward will be a bit of a contrast to the past in District 2. Many of the people in this community have felt themselves distanced from their government. Local experts and dedicated advisors who offer their precious time to serve on city boards and councils have been ignored.  Non-profits have lacked for support. Affordable housing has not been prioritized. Any vocal opposition has been met with retribution and intimidation. In District 2 government has forgotten that the elected official is responsible for serving the needs of its citizens, and not the other way around.

That.  ends.  today.

Today, I have sworn in as commissioner of District 2, to serve with humility. In listening to people from the West Grove to Morningside over the past year, I know Miami is full of folks who want to be a part of making our city what it deserves to be. They are the new generation of leadership.  They are full of untapped ideas, of love for Miami, of excitement and an earnest desire to work hard.  It’s my job to embrace and empower them.

A lot of people during the race called my campaign youthful and refreshing.  But the youth and enthusiasm that I see in Miami from so many people willing to tackle our hardest problems (like traffic) are in all honesty way beyond me as an individual.

So I plan on doing the only thing that makes sense with those young, enthusiastic minds: putting them to work.

I plan on bringing the best minds together, working alongside leaders at every level of government to finally give Miami the serious transit and traffic solutions the city demands. 

I plan on working with the growing and savvy group of civic technologists who, through the use of open data, are hacking a new age of transparency and accountability in government.

I plan on truly listening to the concerns of environmentalists trying to protect Biscayne Bay and those trying to keep the rising seas from threatening so much of the progress we’re celebrating today. Miami should be the national leader in pursuing its own sustainable future.

Over the coming weeks, and considering the vote of my colleagues, I may become the Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority and the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency.  I will also assume the role of chairman in the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District.  As a business owner who has traveled to over 40 countries, I recognize the importance of our retail and small business community.  I have a mindset to achieve objectives, and not play politics.  And I believe that these Agencies can achieve their goals while valuing the original mission statements that call them to their greatest good.

I plan on using the tools available to me to build up our communities of need, instead of wiping them out.  Working families should be able to enjoy their city and afford to live here.

And for those who are without a job and without a home, I recognize that homeless people are people first and homeless second, and that with dignity and pure intention, we can help them to a better station in life.  And that with this intention as the priority, we will also resolve the concerns of downtown residents and businesses.

I plan on prioritizing green space and public access to the natural resources that make Miami one of the best places to live in the country.

And of course, I plan on listening to the never-tiring group of community activists, who defend their neighborhoods year in and year out.

The beautiful japanese music we heard today, is called “Haru no Umi” which means the Sea in Spring.  It was written by the blind composer Michio Miyagi in the 1920s.  The song evokes his memory of the ocean before he lost his sight.

We have an ocean of ideas before us.  If I am successful, our City Hall will be the lighthouse that shepherds those great ideas that are floating out there. But as each of those ideas emits a light of its own, the collective dreams and aspirations of our city will become a shining beacon to guide the world. That light, those ideas, those dreams and aspirations will be my guide as well.

I will do this because I emphatically believe that we can solve the problems before us, and know that the key word in that statement is “we.”

And we, above all, in accomplishing these goals, are going to have some fun.  You have no idea who you’ve elected, but I plan to enjoy every minute of this journey as we get to know each other.  I look forward to working together with you… and with all of you, as we light up Miami for our bright future ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank you all for coming.









Miami Association of Fire Fighters IAFF Local 587 Endorses Ken Russell For City of Miami District 2 Commissioner

MIAMI -- With the run-off election for the District 2 seat in the city of Miami commission drawing closer, the city's firefighter union is backing candidate Ken Russell.

The Miami Association of Fire Fighters IAFF Local 587 said Tuesday its 710 members were endorsing Russell for the seat.

"Our Association feels he has the ability to lead the City of Miami during these changing times,” said IAFF Local 587 President Freddy Delgado.

"Ken Russell is an experienced businessperson skilled in communication, negotiation, and management," the union said in a statement. "He is very well equipped to be a successful and effective Commissioner for the residents of Miami. He’s an entrepreneur, knows how to listen to the needs of the people and find creative ways to meet those needs."

"Ken cares about the well-being of the City of Miami and its residents," the organization added. "His dedication and  commitment to the City is an example of his leadership skills and ability to work with the residents."

The endorsement from the union is the latest from organized labor for Russell.

While Russell's opponent in the upcoming contest has withdrawn, the election is still legally on. The campaign is asking voters who have requested absentee ballots to check their mailboxes for a fresh form, fill it out, and mail it in.

The election will be held November 17.




City of Miami Commissioner Carollo Endorses Ken Russell

MIAMI -- Days away from the run-off election for the District 2 seat in the city of Miami commission, District 3 commissioner Frank Carollo is pleased to announce his endorsement of candidate Ken Russell.

"I endorse Ken Russell for City of Miami Commissioner in District 2," Commissioner Frank Carollo said. "Ken has harnessed the energy of fresh political insight for Miami and its residents."

"I am excited about the opportunity to work with Ken in the City Commission for the betterment of the community and the City of Miami as a whole," Carollo added.

The endorsement from Commissioner Carollo is the latest from a sitting elected official in Miami-Dade. 

While Russell's opponent in the upcoming contest has withdrawn, the election is still legally on. The campaign is asking voters who have requested absentee ballots to check their mailboxes for a fresh form, fill it out, and mail it in.

The election will be held November 17.



City of Miami Commissioner Suarez Endorses Ken Russell

MIAMI -- In anticipation of a run-off election for the District 2 seat in the city of Miami commission, District 4 commissioner Francis Suarez and his wife Gloria are pleased to announce their endorsement of candidate Ken Russell.

"I'm honored to endorse Ken Russell in his candidacy for District 2 commissioner," Commissioner Francis Suarez said. "Ken exemplifies the new Miami, a city that emphasizes mass transit solutions, repurposing urban spaces to increase viable parkland and a focus on improving our residents' quality of life."

"I look forward to working with Ken," Suarez added.

The endorsement from Commissioner Suarez is the latest from a sitting elected official in Miami-Dade. 

While an unofficial concession has been offered by Russell's opponent in the upcoming contest, the election is still legally on. The campaign is asking voters who have requested absentee ballots to check their mailboxes for a fresh form, fill it out, and mail it in.


Follow the Money: Russell vs. Sarnoff

This is no surprise based on the relationship between big developers and Teresa Sarnoff's husband, current Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.


Pasta & Politics

Ken is extending an open invitation to all of his friends and supporters to join him for a night of good food and honest political discussion at Pronto Pasta.



Multimedia Storm

From CNN to the Miami Herald, the Ken Russell campaign received massive amounts of exposure this week through multiple multimedia outlets.



ICYMI: Shucking Oysters and Talking Politics by Coconut Grove Grapevine (6/4/15)

By Jesse Vasquez

It felt a little bit like the low country of South Carolina on Wednesday night, when supporters of Ken Russell were invited to shuck oysters, talk politics and raise money for his campaign at a little party in the North Grove. It was quite a turnout along the water's edge in one of the neighborhood right on the bay. Russell is running against the wife of term-limited Marc Sarnoff for District 2 commission seat, who many feel is ill qualified for the job commissioner and really only being a puppet so Sarnoff can remain in office. It's quite distasteful and embarrassing. And allegedly a money grab, so that they can still stay married to the developers and builders, who have overtaken the city…

To Read More Visit: The Coconut Grove Grapevine



Mass Walk Brings Locals

by Jesse Vazquez

This past Saturday, Ken and his supporters came out in droves for a mass walk throughout the District. Brandishing new t-shirts and carrying signs and bumper stickers, Ken’s team rallied the community to take to the streets in an effort to reach out to voters in the District.

“I’m always inspired by the passion of the people of this community,” said Ken Russell. “This election will be a turning point for our city. We will decide whether we move forward into the 21st century or stay stuck and mired in the Sarnoff Era. I’m glad that so many people in this community realize the importance of this election and want to help us make a difference”.  

As election season kicks into full gear, we will be holding many more mass walks and community events over the next few months. If you would like to get involved and learn more about how you can help us bring change to local government.


Merrie Christmas Park, Where the Contamination Has Been Dug Up but the Truth is Being Buried.


Merrie Christmas Park, Where the Contamination Has Been Dug Up but the Truth is Being Buried.

Rebuttal to Commissioner Sarnoff's Newsletter

One of the main reasons I have decided to become a Commissioner is to put an end to the misleading half-truths that have plagued the current administration.  Commissioner Marc Sarnoff gives new examples of this in his email newsletter today regarding the cleanup and reopening of Merrie Christmas Park.  This issue is very important to me as I've worked to help get the best possible cleanup.  I'm hosting a picnic there this Saturday April 4 at noon for all neighbors, and it will be a happy time without rhetoric or accusations.  But before then, I'd like to make sure the truth is told -- not twisted.

What I have found is that unless you are armed with research and knowledge of an issue, Marc will bluff you into submission.  In the case of today's newsletter from the Commissioner, he is clearly preparing to attend the picnic I am hosting in the park this Saturday, and he would like to re-write history to put him in the best light of the situation.  

The fact is that Commissioner Sarnoff promised the City and the press that he had procured $175k from a secret donor.  He did this to convince the City to conduct the better remediation that the neighbors requested.  But the fact is that there is no secret donor.  The City did conduct that additional remediation and spend that money.  See the attached letter from the city's Mark Spanioli below and See this New Times article:  http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/commissioner-sarnoff-toxic-soil-at-merrie-christmas-park-will-be-removed-soon-6546637  

 The 2500 ton pile was carried away safely in 150 truck loads.  This was not part of the original plan.  A better remediation DID happen.  But who will pay for it?

The 2500 ton pile was carried away safely in 150 truck loads.  This was not part of the original plan.  A better remediation DID happen.  But who will pay for it?

Based on his promise of funding, the City did the better remediation, removing the 2500 tons of contaminated soil and adding a compacted lime rock cap.  It is documented that this will cost the additional $175k.  But the fact is that there is NO secret donor.  It has been revealed that the donation never happened and it never will.  So where will the money come from?  Commissioner Sarnoff's newsletter today is a fabrication meant to distract from the fact that the City did reverse their plan and conduct a better remediation that he promised to pay for.  He is trying to say that the City stayed with its original plan so that no additional money was needed.  Will Commissioner Sarnoff be held accountable for his promise of the additional funds that will now be charged to the City?   Please read on and try to keep count of his other fabrications in this same newsletter.

1)  False Statement by Sarnoff:  "The City of Miami on March 27, 2015 reopened Merrie Christmas Park"

TRUTH:  The City actually opened it two days earlier on March 25 -- not March 27.  Why is this relevant?  By opening it before work was done, they allowed children to play while heavy machinery still operated around them.  The result?  A large machine flipped near several children on March 26, crushed the playground fence, and could have killed a child.  Of course, Sarnoff gives the later date in his newsletter and doesn't mention the accident.  See New Times Article with photos of the children and the flipped bulldozer:  http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/after-toxic-cleanup-runaway-equipment-spoils-merrie-christmas-park-reopening-7560245

 Heavy Machinery around kids could have been tragic.  photo courtesy of New Times

Heavy Machinery around kids could have been tragic.  photo courtesy of New Times

2)  False Statement by Sarnoff:  "First, DERM and the EPA had already recommended and approved a plan which would cap the park with two feet of clean fill to create a barrier protecting all users of the park. Second, the proposed plan necessitated the disruption and transportation of the contaminated soil and ash which is contrary to every best practice and was discouraged by DERM and the EPA"

TRUTH:  While they did approve it, DERM did not recommend the plan to the City.  DERM did not discourage the removal of contaminants.  DERM is a county department, and Marc has used them as a scape goat several times to deflect attention from his decisions and responsibilities.  DERM presented the city with a full menu of all the possible cleanup options.  The City simply chose the cheapest one.  

3)  False Statement by Sarnoff:  "It was suggested that if we were to go against the wishes of DERM and the EPA that there needed to be “skin in the game” since neither the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, nor the Federal Government would fund the difference."

TRUTH:  Again, a better remediation as requested by the residents did not go against the wishes of DERM or the EPA.  Wilbur Mayorga of DERM clearly stated that he could not recommend or influence which option the City chose.  The term, "Skin in the Game" is a phrase first used by Sarnoff to me when he explained why, even though he could raise the money for the cleanup on his own, he wanted the neighbors to pitch in.

4) False Statement by Sarnoff: "Once the neighbors realized that advocating for the total removal of the contamination also meant the total removal of trees from the affected area, they began to rethink. With the added cost and time involved with the total excavation plan, it became clear that the City’s plan to cap was the right way to go."

TRUTH:  The City's plan was not the right way to go, and in fact they did reverse their plan, removing more than 2500 tons of contaminated soil.  This was the original request of the neighbors, and this was what Sarnoff wanted to charge the neighbors to remove -- not a total removal with trees.  He is mixing two solutions and trying to make it seem as though the City's original plan was correct and prevailed in the end.  He is trying to make it seem that the neighbors request was unreasonable and that we eventually saw the light, allowing the city to go forward with their original plan.  This would let him off the hook for the additional cost which he promised to fundraise and cover.

TRUTH about trees:  Sarnoff used a false statement during our meeting in the park to scare neighbors out of asking for a proper cleanup by threatening to kill EVERY tree in the park.  He'll say that he never said that, or he'll temper it by referring to select trees in the affected area, but that's not what he said to the neighbors at decision time.  watch 10 seconds of this video here in which Sarnoff stated:  "Let's just be clear on the trees.  Every tree you see has to come out.  There's NO tree that stays 100%…"


5)  False Statement by Sarnoff:  "Before the community meeting I received a letter from one of the attorneys purportedly representing the neighbors...That attorney’s communication suggested that our office requested $5,000 from each of abutting the residents and that we had requested a total of $50,000"

TRUTH:  In Attorneys Michelle Niemeyer and Jason Kellogg's letter to Sarnoff, they did not state that Sarnoff had requested $5k from EACH neighbor abutting the park.  They specifically wrote:  "It is my understanding…that you would be willing to accept $5,000 from the residents instead of the $50,000 you suggested at last week's meeting."  This was documented at the meeting, and in the press.  The bigger story should be that he haggled over getting money directly from the neighbors at all.  One neighbor with health problems actually sent Marc some money apologizing that she couldn't send more.

6)  False Statement by Sarnoff:  "at that meeting it was announced there would be no need for anyone to put “skin in the game” since we would not be attempting the removal of all contaminated soil and ash from the park."

TRUTH:  When we left that meeting at City Hall, Sarnoff was STILL requesting $50k from the neighbors.  If there is a transcript of that meeting, it will show.  Sarnoff called me the following Monday and lowered his request from $50k down to $5k.   It was only after I let the press know about this smaller offer that Sarnoff told the New Times that the City would proceed with our requested removal of the 2500 tons of unearthed contaminated soil, and that he had procured an "anonymous donor" to pay for the ENTIRE $175k.  This is the amount that Marc promised the City that he had procured, and it was under this promise that the City went forward with the removal. So it's an untrue statement -- no such announcement was made at the city meeting.

So now that the City did conduct a greater remediation at an additional cost that Commissioner Sarnoff promised that he had procured, let's ask him where that money should come from.  His office called me to let me know that he will be attending the picnic I'm hosting in the park on Saturday at noon.  If you see him, you can ask him as well.  If he tells you the donation wasn't necessary because there was no additional cost, ask him how 2500 tons was hauled away at no additional cost.  And then you can ask him if he will give the same quality cleanup, removing any unearthed contaminants that they dig up at the other six toxic parks in his district.

My point is that you shouldn't have to try this hard to see the truth.  You shouldn't have to be armed with research and videos and emails.  Your elected officials should simply be honest.  Too much to ask?

Learn more about Ken:


Below is the entire newsletter from Commissioner Sarnoff today:


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If Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, Marine Stadium is a Pretty Shaky Fence.

 Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo explains the Marine Stadium Park plan to Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay and Counsel.

Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo explains the Marine Stadium Park plan to Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay and Counsel.

Notification and Inclusion.  This is an issue for the City of Miami that keeps coming up.  At first I thought it was an oversight.  Then Dejavu.  Then I saw a pattern, and I believe it should be addressed.

When a municipality plans to take an action that will adversely affect a neighborhood within that city or a neighboring city, there are steps and methods that are required to notify the potentially affected parties.  The spirit of this intent should go even deeper.  It's in the best interest of the city to bring everyone to the table at the beginning.  

In this case, Key Biscayne is suing the City of Miami over Miami's planned renovation and development of the Marine Stadium property on Virginia Key.  Miami owns the property and wants to develop it to its best use potential.  Key Biscayne feels that over-development of that park will lead to a worsening of the traffic and gridlock on the sole road in and out of the Key.

Key Biscayne doesn't want to choke the usage of the park.  But they want inclusion in the process to help mitigate the negative effects for their citizens.  Maybe they can't veto or control the total outcome, but their involvement and acknowledgement should have been greater from the start.

I saw the same thing in so many issues with Miami recently.  Whether it's neighborhood parks being designated as Brownfield Sites, Trolley Service Stations being placed in residential West Grove, or local workers not having a seat at the table with regard to massive development that would not include them, people just want a seat at the table from the start.  It's not that the City of Miami has violated the letter of the law in all these cases.  But the spirit and intent should be this.  If an affected neighbor didn't know about the City's intention, then the notification didn't try hard enough.  

A resident shouldn't have to wake up every morning and check the newspaper and city websites to see how they're getting negatively affected each day.  It should be the City's responsibility to make sure that everyone knows.  mailings, phone calls, and door to door would pretty much cover it all.  

Reach out and bring the other side to the table first. -- from the very beginning.   Even if it's bad news, the acknowledgement and inclusion will go a long way toward a peaceful resolution.  If you have the disagreement up front, it's less painful than fighting about the disagreement and the fact that the affected parties weren't fully included from the start.

How will this resolve?  Of course, now that everyone is at the table, they'll work it out, but at lots of additional time and cost to both parties.  

You can guess how I might end this post:  As a Candidate for Miami City Commissioner, I hope that you elect people who will prioritize transparency and inclusion.  Even if we disagree, we can all get along.



 Marine Stadium remains in disrepair until the parties come to a resolution

Marine Stadium remains in disrepair until the parties come to a resolution

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