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Francis Suarez Woos Silicon Valley in Lead-Up to Miami Mayoral Election

Francis Suarez was elected City of Miami mayor in 2017 and he’s running for re-election this year. That said, many have noted that his gaze these days seems more fixed on the West Coast than the East Coast city he’s been entrusted to lead.

Governing is hard work — and on top of his official mayoral duties, Suarez works outside jobs at a private equity firm, an LA-based law firm, and, somewhat unofficially, as the work-from-home mayor of Silicon Valley.

Perhaps his campaign slogan says it best: “A mayor for everyone.”

Whereas other municipalities have opted to limit incoming travelers in the midst of a pandemic, Suarez — AKA the “tech bro” mayor — has spent the past year courting cryptocurrency and tech entrepreneurs from San Francisco (“SF,” we hear the locals call it), attempting to woo them and their digital wallets fat with Bitcoin bucks to Miami.

While Suarez sees his tech-migration cheerleading as a boon to Miami’s historically homogeneous tourist economy, others worry that his Pacific paramours will only serve to make Miami’s already dire housing market even more unaffordable.

Some also say that considering Miami’s awkward place in the news cycle over the past month, Suarez should tear his eyes away from glossy unicorn tech startups and focus on his own chambers.

Tech entrepreneurs have already donated several hundred thousand dollars to Suarez’s re-election campaign. If the mass Silicon Valley exodus arrives in Miami, perhaps they’ll prove to be a crucial bloc — so long as they changed their addresses and registered to vote in time for the November 2 election.

Meanwhile, here are four instances when Francis Suarez has been more of a mayor to tech bros than he has been to citizens of his own city.

(Suarez did not respond to a request for comment from New Times.)

Francis Suarez Slides Into SF DMs

Mayor Suarez’s Twitter campaign to gather tech bros began around November 2020. Since then, his social media has been awash with messages to tech CEOs and venture capitalists asking them to come to Miami. His most popular tweet, “How can I help?” from last December, attracted 5,872 likes and 338 retweets.

But the cavalcade of coin miners really popped off in February, when billboards with images of Suarez’s tweets showed up in San Francisco’s Bay Area (which tech workers famously made unaffordable).

One ad, which displays Suarez’s tweet, “Thinking about moving to Miami? DM me,” was paid for by investor Shervin Pishevar, who was accused of sexual misconduct by five women. Though Suarez didn’t pay for the ad, he knew about it well in advance and welcomed the publicity, according to the Miami Herald.

click to enlarge There's Bitcoin in them thar California hills! - PHOTO BY ANDRÉ FRANÇOIS MCKENZIE/UNSPLASH

There’s Bitcoin in them thar California hills!

Photo by André François McKenzie/Unsplash

“Pay Me in Bitcoin!”

One aspect of Suarez’s bid to turn Miami into the next tech hub involves shifting the municipal economy to cryptocurrency, that nebulous digital money that your weird uncle swears he learned all about from the YouTube.

In February, the mayor proposed paying City of Miami employees in Bitcoin, and allowing city residents to pay taxes and fees in cryptocurrency, and he set up an entire task force to study how to make it happen. The move spawned similar initiatives in Miami-Dade County and Miami Lakes.

Suarez’s Bitcoin dream has, however, run into some roadblocks — and not solely because most Miamians don’t understand how cryptocurrency works.

Last month, Vice News reported that Miami city officials had several problems with the notion of moving to Bitcoin, including the fact that exchange rates fluctuate wildly and are not guaranteed gains, and that, unlike regular bank accounts, Bitcoin wallets aren’t insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Administration.

That’s not to mention the outsized negative impact Bitcoin and cryptocurrency have on the environment, as the enormous energy required to power servers that mine them contributes directly to climate change. It’s not a good look for the mayor of one of the most populous cities threatened by rising seas, increased flooding, and natural disasters like hurricanes.

“MiamiCoin Is Worth $16 Million, Bro”

Speaking of cryptocurrency, the City of Miami launched its own crypto coin this August, called “MiamiCoin,” in collaboration with the nonprofit CityCoins.

The marketed dream behind MiamiCoin is to allow residents to live in Miami “tax-free” by allowing them to buy into the city by purchasing coins, which will then rise in value and generate profit for the municipality and its citizens.

Though the program is still young and MiamiCoin is currently trading at just shy of three cents, Suarez is banking on its success and lauding its potential when residents bring more concrete concerns before him.

Local political activist Thomas Kennedy tells New Times of an interaction he had with Suarez outside Cafe Abbracci in Coral Gables, when he confronted the mayor about the lack of affordable housing in Miami.

“Mayor, we need less Bitcoin and more affordable housing,” Kennedy recalls telling Suarez as he walked past him on his way out. Suarez is said to have replied by saying, “MiamiCoin is worth $16 million, bro.”

click to enlarge While his handpicked police chief was being raked over the coals, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez sipped from a tall can of Perrier and talked bitcoin on a YouTube livestream. - SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE

While his handpicked police chief was being raked over the coals, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez sipped from a tall can of Perrier and talked bitcoin on a YouTube livestream.

Too Busy Talking About Bitcoin to Attend Special Art Acevedo Meeting

In the past month, Miami has made national headlines for the circus act that was a series of special commission meetings chastising now-former Miami Police Department Chief Art Acevedo. The chief had offended several commissioners with an off-the-cuff quip that the police department was run by the “Cuban Mafia,” which led commissioners to essentially strong-arm City Manager Art Noriega into firing Acevedo last week.

Back in April, Suarez pushed Noriega into hiring Acevedo on the recommendation of the mayor of Houston. He had called the then-Houston top cop the “Tom Brady” and “Michael Jordan” of police chiefs. But when his golden boy was on the hot seat, Suarez was conspicuously absent from the commission chambers — he was in his office, jawboning about Bitcoin with a YouTuber.

That’s right: While commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Manolo Reyes were raking Acevedo over the coals, Suarez was sipping Perrier and discussing crypto on The Best Business Show, hosted by Anthony Pompliano.

Suarez was blasted by residents and the Miami Herald editorial board for failing to show up to defend his police chief.

The mayor’s security detail physically shoved Univision reporter Erika Carrillo aside when she had the audacity to pursue Suarez up a city hall stairwell that day to ask about Acevedo’s ouster.

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