Jonathan Welsh has served locally and internationally as a community organizer and leader. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami in Political Science and Public Relations and was a member of the university’s row club. Now he is asking your vote to be your next commissioner of Miami Beach, Group 5.
After receiving his degree, Jon served with the United States Peace Corps where he strengthened links 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 whose mission is to build a patient advocacy program that mobilizes and engages volunteers in advocacy activities at the state and federal levels. Jon expanded his community impact when he joined 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 and diversity, so it 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 feel about the transportation options available in our city?
The city has made worthy strides by increasing mobility with the trolleys. I would like to see more dedicated bike lanes to support eco-friendly mobility to support Citi-Bikes and to decrease automobile traffic. Miami Beach cannot wait another 20 years for our city’s transit system to reach that of the modern era.
I emphatically support the idea of a public/private partnership to bring the monorail project that links with Miami Downtown, Virgin Trains/Brightline, and the Miami International Airport. It is an opportunity to truly bring the next generation of travel to Miami. Genting has a global reputation for sophisticated development projects. Poor connectivity to the rest of South Florida translates to poor connectivity to the world. Increased ease of transportation to support businesses and tourism will create new economic opportunities. The creation of mobility and ease of access can aid in Miami Beach’s economic growth.
You write and speak often about “Smart Tourism.” What does that mean to you?
Smart Tourism means utilizing efforts aimed at using technologies innovatively to achieve resource optimization, sustainability, and quality of life. It is imperative to bring hospitality 2.0 to the table. In the context of tourism, smart technologies are changing consumer experiences and are generating creative tourism business models. Cloud computing, big data, mobile apps, location-based services, geo-tag services, beacon technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, and social networking services are all cutting-edge examples of smart technologies enhancing the tourism experiences and services. On the back-end, smart tourism allows for new ways of managing tourist flows, better tourist services, new advertising models, and new collaborative ventures that build on cloud services and open data to innovate beyond the traditional industry boundaries.
Smart tourism also means protecting and strengthening the city’s brand so that sophisticated travelers continue to spend time and money in Miami Beach. That comes with saying yes and no to events that bring sustainable tourism. My approach moving forward is to have candid conversations with event producers from around the globe that can strengthen our sophisticated brand. Starting with asking the question, “Does this event achieve a short term goal while strengthening our long term cultural legacy?” Our hospitality industry needs “heads in beds,” but there is often an untold price that comes if we do not culturally curate our events to create smart tourism. I want to expand upon our legacy events to build our city as a destination via international innovation, technology, and cultural exchange.
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 Sciencedirect’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 that 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.
Is there an initiative that excites you the most?
With thousands of photos shared instantly of every nook and cranny of our city worldwide from visitors and residents alike on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sites come a great need and opportunity for beautification. There are large portions of neglected alleys and sidewalks that have potential with renewal. I support working together to create a picturesque behind-the-scenes by creating a “Green-Alley” initiative that improves the visual appeal block by block. It will bring neighbors together, create community, and further highlight the historic Deco neighborhood, North Beach, and more. It puts the city’s best foot forward to the world.