www.ambiente.us  JANUARY | ENERO 2009

VICTOR DIAZ, JR. | Miami Beach’s Fresh Face on the Commission
By Herb Sosa
Exclusively for Ambiente


    Dec. 5, 2008… Miami Beach City
    Commission appointed attorney Victor M.
    Diaz, Jr. to fill the unexpired term, (to Nov.
    3, 2009), of former city commissioner
    Richard Steinberg who was recently
    elected Florida State Rep.

    Mr. Diaz, a Summa Cum Laude graduate of
    Duke, ranking first in a class of 1,726, edited
    the Yale Law Review, and was an Oxford
    University Scholar.

    While establishing a national reputation in Miami as an attorney, Mr. Diaz championed civil
     rights and community causes, and served with great distinction on city and county boards,
     including chairing the county Charter Review Board and the City of Miami Beach Planning
     Board.

    Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin voted against the appointment.

Ambiente sits with Commissioner Diaz to discuss the past, present & future for him & Miami
Beach…

HS- How did you become the appointed commissioner to fill outgoing Steinberg’s seat?  Did you
request/apply?  Were you asked? ... The process.
VD- I was approached initially by Mayor Bower after it appeared that the City Commission was deadlocked
over the appointment of former Mayor David Dermer to the seat vacated by Richard Steinberg..  I indicated to
her that I would accept the position if supported by a large majority of the City Commission. I was next
approached by Commissioner Saul Gross after the Commission voted and could not agree on Mayor
Dermer's appointment. At that point, I reached out to several Commissioners for support and was honored
and humbled to be nominated and selected the very next day by a 5 to 1 vote.

HS- Our readers have repeatedly asked us about 3 things that concern them about Miami Beach: 1- Roads &
sidewalks are in terrible shape, especially in the neighborhoods; 2- Commercial areas of South Beach
seem to be more dangerous/crime is up all over the city; 3 – Will taxes go up & services decreased due to
lower funds coming into the city. Will you address these concerns?
VD- I view the top three issues facing the City to be: 1) economic development: we need to make sure that we
are securing Miami Beach's long-term economic viability and working on creating a sustainable and
expanding local economy; 2) quality of life: I have always been a strong advocate of improving residential
quality of life on Miami Beach.  This includes issues of much needed infra-structure improvement, crime,
parking, cleanliness etc. 3) fiscal responsibility: this means using tax revenue wisely to give taxpayers the
most value for their tax dollars. This also should include looking for ways to alleviate the tax burden on
residents and home-owners by making large development projects pay a fair share for the impact they are
creating on our community.


      My primary goal in the next year will be to honestly and zealously represent
     the unfiltered views of Miami Beach's silent majority - its residents. In my
     opinion, lobbyists and City-Hall insiders have disproportionate influence on
     City policies and the average citizen's views are, at times, under
    -represented. I intend to work with my fellow Commissioners to ensure a level
     playing field so that EVERYONE is treated on an equal footing.
 
                                                                                                                                            
– Victor Diaz, Jr.

HS- Tell me about UNIDAD, your involvement & what it does/serve?
VD-  I was a founder of UNIDAD (along with Mayor Matte Herrera Bower and others) 15 years ago. UNIDAD
was originally conceived as a way to represent and empower the under-represented views and needs of
Miami Beach's Hispanic community.  Over time, it has transformed itself into the largest non-medical social
service provider in Miami Beach.  It operates the Miami Beach Hispanic Community Center, the Miami Beach
One Stop Center and (in 2010) the North Beach Senior Center.  UNIDAD offers programming in the areas of
job training and placement, youth leadership development, elderly services, teen nutrition and dental health,
as well as a whole host of other social services targeting our community. UNIDAD assists over 10,000
residents a year.  I am very proud of UNIDAD and its great success in helping our community be a fairer and
more humane place to live.

HS- What do you consider your greatest accomplishments #1 personally, #2 professionally, #3 civically?
VD- My greatest civic accomplishment would be the enormous honor I just received of being selected a
consensus replacement City Commissioner. I view it as a recognition of some two decades of work in our
community at a grass-roots level. My greatest professional accomplishment would be my 23 years as a
lawyer and partner at Podhurst Orseck, P.A. in Miami. It is the only job I have ever had and am proud to be a
partner in a firm that has succeeded professionally, while giving back so much to our community. Finally, my
greatest personal accomplishment would be having learned to accept and love myself despite my
imperfections and to accept others on the same terms.

HS- Miami Beach has some of the most progressive LGBT-related laws around, incl. domestic partner
registry, employee partner benefits, trans-inclusion & most recently the rainbow flag flying at City Hall.  What
are your feelings on these issues, and can the city do more towards equality & inclusion for the LGBT and
other communities.
VD- I am proud to live in a City that has developed such a progressive reputation on LGBT issues. I
commend this and past City Commissions for their steadfast support of human rights. Can we do more?
Damn right, we can. During my first meeting as a City Commissioner< I asked the City Commission to defer
re-adopting our existing domestic partnership ordinance in favor of bringing back a new stronger and more
far-reaching ordinance that will place Miami Beach at the fore-front of protecting the civil rights of all LGBT
persons.  In my view, this issue is THE civil rights issue of our day and we ALL need to re-commit to doing
everything we can to secure equal protection under the law for all persons regardless of sexual orientation.
As you know, we have a lot of education and awareness building to do in order to achieve this goal, but I am
fully engaged in that effort.

HS- Miami Beach has a history of change, transition & ups & downs... For many years we led the community
as the center for Health Care and Fashion/production, but no more.
There is a perception that the appeal of South Beach has been overshadowed recently with the over-
saturation of chain stores, driving out unique local artists & venues, a rise in crime/theft, and huge &
destructive crowds & trash everywhere for special events- keeping locals off & out of our businesses.  How
do you feel we can keep Miami Beach appealing, affordable and afloat for the long haul?
VD- As I mentioned earlier, securing the long-term economic viability of Miami Beach is one the top issues
confronting our City. What kind of City do we want to be in 2015?  What do we have to do to get there?  What
is unique about the Miami Beach brand? What can we do to reinforce our strengths and address our
weaknesses?  I do not pretend to have all the answers, but intend to press these questions. I am looking
forward to Mayor Bower's Economic Summit, which will bring some of the most creative business thinkers
together to address some of these issues. I intend to listen and learn and offer my suggestions.  In  the end,
I think in order for Miami Beach to succeed economically we must preserve a balanced, diverse and
interesting community. I think we need to recapture the edge that characterized South Beach in the late 80's
and early 90's. We need to keep doing what we do well and latch on to the next great creative wave. Most of
all, we need to preserve our natural environment, our quality of life and our quirkiness - that is what defines
Miami Beach and will sustain it during the challenging economic times ahead.

HS- What can we expect from Victor Diaz on the future?
VD- Passion, thoughtfulness, honesty and integrity - that is all I have to offer!


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