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.