Will Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez be Nikki Haley’s Vice Presidential Pick for 2024?

archived recording

(SINGING) When you walk in the room, do you have sway?

[MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” My guest today is Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez. Suarez served as a Miami district commissioner before being elected mayor by a landslide in 2017. Now he’s running for reelection and forging ahead with a plan to turn Miami into the next Silicon Valley. And while Miami has gotten some new Silicon Valley transplants during the pandemic, and the mayor has some loud boosters like Keith Rabois, Shervin Pishevar, and Chamath Palihapitiya, it’s unclear what power Suarez has to transform Miami. Beyond his own city, Suarez is angling to be a rising voice in the Republican Party. Just last week, he was spotted meeting with 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley at Miami’s City Hall. She was allegedly scouting him as a potential vice presidential pick. Welcome to the show, Mayor Suarez.

francis suarez

Welcome to Miami, Kara. I think you were here —

kara swisher

Thank you.

francis suarez

— two days ago.

kara swisher

I was there. I enjoyed it. It was lovely. What a city. It was so vibrant. Everything’s going on. And it looks — a lot of — there was construction everywhere. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time in traffic in southern Florida, which was very nice.

francis suarez

It’s one of our virtues.

kara swisher

Yeah, absolutely. So do you think you’d make a good vice presidential candidate?

francis suarez

Do I think I would make a good vice presidential candidate? Sure, why not?

kara swisher

Yeah. Tell me why.

francis suarez

Well, being a mayor of a big city is an incredibly dynamic and challenging executive role. I’m young, energetic. And I think Miami is a good representation of what the country is and will be.

kara swisher

Explain that. Why is that?

francis suarez

Because we’re incredibly diverse. We’re a city of immigrants. And we are a place where, I think, in the future, people will congregate to create not just yesterday’s companies, but tomorrow’s companies. So I think it’s a bastion of what the future will look like.

kara swisher

So tell us about your meeting with Nikki Haley. What was the reason for that? Just visiting?

francis suarez

Yeah, she called, and we connected. And basically, was talk about Miami and why Miami’s succeeding when other cities are struggling. We did not talk about any presidential ambitions she may have. We did not talk about the vice president. So I find it interesting that that became a topic of conversation after the fact that —

kara swisher

Who leaked that? Was that you? Who leaked that?

francis suarez

It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.

kara swisher

OK. All right.

francis suarez

Like the song says, it wasn’t me.

kara swisher

Right, well, it’s not a secret, though, that she’s scouting running mates. So you didn’t imagine that was why she came to visit you?

francis suarez

Oh, I mean, I don’t know what her reasons are. You can ask her what her reasons are. But I certainly was not shy about wanting to build a bond and a relationship with her. I think she’s someone who has distinguished herself as a governor of a state. She was obviously ambassador to the United Nations. And so she has local executive experience, international policy experience, and diplomatic experience for foreign policy credentials. So I think she’s very, very credentialed and someone who people should keep an eye on for sure.

kara swisher

OK, so if Nikki Haley asked you to be vice president, your answer is?

francis suarez

What am I supposed to say to that question?

kara swisher

Well, yes or no?

francis suarez

I wouldn’t say no to — I don’t think I would say no to anybody asking me. I guess I would say no to some people asking me. But —

kara swisher

Who would you say no to?

francis suarez

Oh, why are you going to ask me that?

kara swisher

[LAUGHS]

francis suarez

Why are you trying to get me in trouble?

kara swisher

I’m not trying to get you, because that’s impossible.

francis suarez

Yeah, no, because let me tell you, politics is all about getting people in trouble.

kara swisher

Is it?

francis suarez

Oh, yeah, you go in an interview.

kara swisher

Come on.

francis suarez

Who did you vote for?

kara swisher

Y’all do it pretty well yourselves.

francis suarez

No, no.

kara swisher

Come on.

francis suarez

You guys are good at it.

kara swisher

It’s the media!

francis suarez

You guys are trying to get me into trouble. Listen, I think the world of her. I think she would make an excellent candidate. I think she has executive experience, foreign policy experience. And if she were to make it and be a nominee and she asked me, I probably would say yes. Beyond that, I can tell you the jobs that I’m not interested in. I’m not interested in being a congressman. I have a lot of respect for people who have to campaign every two years and go to Washington, particularly in Florida, where it’s constantly flip-flopping. I don’t particularly want to be a U.S senator. And another executive position like running for governor, that would be something that could interest me. And then, of course, running for president or vice president is something that I don’t know how many people grow up thinking about that. I certainly didn’t. There’s some people that grow up, when they’re kids — I want to be president since I was two years old. I never thought of that I actually didn’t really get into politics or decide I wanted to be in politics until very late in life, I would say.

kara swisher

Right, but let’s be clear. You come from a political family.

francis suarez

I do. And that certainly didn’t persuade me to get into politics, I can tell you that much. My dad was the first Cuban mayor of Miami. He was mayor for a few terms until ‘93 and then came back briefly in ‘97 and then became a county commissioner later.

kara swisher

OK, so Miami mayoral office is technically nonpartisan, but you’ve been a registered Republican since you were 18. Talk about what drew you to the party besides your dad, who was also a Republican.

francis suarez

Yeah, my dad actually has been a Democrat or a Republican and an independent at one point in his life. So he’s someone who is a free thinker. For me, I started when I was 18. When I was young, I admired President Reagan. I believe in limited government. I believe that you shouldn’t tax people any more than you need to. I feel that we should balance our budgets. I believe in strong national defense. So those are issues that I believed in at the time and still believe in. And frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the whole false narrative of like, you’re a Republican or you’re a Democrat, and therefore, you must think X, Y, and Z, ABC. I think we’ve allowed ourselves as a society to pigeonhole each other. And so the best thing is, hey, let’s put you in a category. Who did you vote for in the last election? You’re in a category now. What party are you? OK, you’re in a unique category. And I think it’s an oversimplification of life. And I think it’s done for somewhat nefarious reasons, I guess, which is for control and for money and power.

kara swisher

Right, right. So you’re part of a larger, also Latino presence in the Republican Party. On the national level, there was a lot of talk about the so-called Latino vote in 2020. Of course, Latinos are not a monolith. Most did vote for Biden, but in many states, including Florida, Latinos helped Trump win in that state. So what does that mean for the GOP going forward?

francis suarez

In the case of South Florida, and contrasting maybe with what’s happening in other Hispanic communities across the United States, you have many Hispanic communities that are fleeing countries. And so, the president, to his credit, spent a lot of time in South Florida on that issue, right? So he was, call it sowing the seeds or whatever you want to call it, but he took bold positions in Venezuela. He led a coalition of leaders to recognize Juan Guaidó. Obviously, his policies in Cuba appealed particularly to New Cubans. And I think this is where there was a little bit of a shift. Obama had sort of moderated Cubans a lot, and he sort of empowered the other side of that argument.

kara swisher

From the Obama opening up Cuba. But let me push back. President Trump was fearmongering. He falsely linked Biden to regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. It was a lot of fear of socialism and playing into those anti-communist feelings.

francis suarez

Sure, and I’m not saying that that wasn’t a political tactic. What I’m saying is that he came down, he understood the issue, he played to the issue, and then, of course, he used the issue, right, which is what you’re saying. And that was effective. So if you ask the question after the fact, why wasn’t it monolithic, right? Why was those particular Hispanic groups supporting him? You have to dig into those issues and understand that.

kara swisher

Right, but you want to bring, I assume, more people to the Republican Party. But again, let me ask, a lot of the Republican Party is staunchly anti-immigration. How are Republicans from immigrant communities supposed to square that? And how do you? I mean, obviously, your parents.

francis suarez

I think it’s a mistake to be anti-immigrant. I think that’s a mistake on a multitude of levels. First of all, I don’t think the way it’s been talked about, it’s been talked about in a healthy way. I was actually having the discussion with somebody yesterday. And it’s either completely open borders or completely closed borders. And nobody’s really talking about the nuances of the issue. And no one’s really talking about it, in my opinion, in the context of the most important factor, which is the economy, right? So, the first issue is, you’ve got 11 million people here, right? Or whatever they are, whatever the number is now. We don’t know where they are. We don’t know who they are. And that’s not good. That’s not healthy. That’s not healthy for anyone. That’s not good for the country. That’s not good for them. So there has to be a way, a path, to legalize those people. Then you have to confront the issue of the people who are trying to come here. And I think you do that instead of, again, saying, oh, we gotta control the border. Like, oh, we gotta — you know? OK, well, wait a second. We’re only allowing, what, I think a million legal immigrants a year. Why don’t we triple that? Why don’t we find what is the right balance? And why don’t we look at our economy for instruction? Pre-pandemic, we were at 3.5 percent unemployment. I mean, that is, like, zero unemployment, right? And you have people that are doing three jobs, right? And you’re having people that have a hard time finding a job. We talk a lot about, for example, minimum wage, a living wage. There are restaurants here in Miami that cannot hire people at $17, $18, $19 an hour. They can’t find workers. And the beauty of our country is, you can be an immigrant, come to this country with nothing, like my parents did, and your son can be the mayor of Miami, his son can be the mayor of Miami. It’s a beautiful thing. So I’m a little lost on this subject —

kara swisher

So when you’re saying it’s a beautiful thing, I get you’re lost on it, but this is the Republican Party today right now. And —

francis suarez

Well, it’s got to change.

kara swisher

Yeah, so, OK. How is that going to happen?

francis suarez

I don’t know if it’s going to change. But it should change. And it has to change. I think if they want to win elections, it has to change. If people want to win an election, you have to convince people of the wisdom of your vision. And this is an issue that I don’t think, frankly, I don’t think it should be partisan at all. I don’t think immigration is a party issue, but whatever. It is, right? Let’s be honest. I just feel that you’ve got to embrace the most number of issues that appeal to the most number of people. That’s just like politics 101. And I think this is an issue that Republicans are frankly ceded for reasons that are beyond me. And I think that they have an opportunity, if they elect the right kind of leaders and choose the right kind of leaders, to bring the issue back into the fold and make it a winning issue, as opposed to a losing issue.

kara swisher

Uh-huh, but ultimately, it’s a losing issue. It does work. Biden — that was the one poll in the Washington Post said Biden was vulnerable on immigration.

francis suarez

But he won. But he won.

kara swisher

Yeah, right. So, where do you see the party going next then when you think about that? Here’s your wing, and then there’s the Liz Cheney wing, and there’s sort of the traditional Republicans. And then there’s sort of the new Republicans I think like yourself. You were very public in your frustrations with President Trump, and you didn’t vote for him neither in 2016 nor 2020, which is a sacrilege within the Republican Party right now. And Nikki Haley certainly has gone back and forth. She seems to pivot around because I think she gets nervous when she says something out of line. How do you get the influence of Trump out of the party?

francis suarez

Look, he has been deplatformed, and I think that’s —

kara swisher

Deplatformed. [LAUGHS] You hang around too many tech people.

francis suarez

He’s been deplatformed. And I think I heard you in one of your last podcasts talking about his influence has waned, and I think that’s a fair statement. And I think over time, his influence will continue to wane to some extent. I don’t know what he’s going to end up doing and ultimately do. And I think people, we move on, you know what I mean? And then you have to move on, and by the way, it’s not just a Trump thing. It’s a generational thing. The next person who runs and becomes president, I believe, after Joe Biden is going to be someone from my generation or from —

kara swisher

So you’re 43.

francis suarez

— close to my generation, yeah. So, certainly not from that generation, let’s put it that way. And so I think that presents a lot of opportunities for people to reassess and say, where do we want to go? That’s number one. Number two, listen, I don’t underestimate personality in politics. Personality in politics is a very powerful thing, for good and for bad, right? And so I think having a leader that’s compelling, having someone that can convince people of a vision, having someone that can articulate the reasons why you should follow certain course of action, that can be very compelling.

kara swisher

So you don’t believe not voting for Trump and being very explicit about it is going to be a problem for you on the national stage.

francis suarez

I have no idea. I don’t think of it in that context. I think of it as being honest about what I did. And frankly, we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. Remember, I’ve run for non-partisan races my entire career since I started in politics. And by the way, that could end up being what makes me not have a partisan career. So I don’t know what the path looks like for someone like that on a national level. But I don’t think I’m going to deviate from that because that’s who I am, and I don’t think it’s going to be positive for me to deviate from that.

kara swisher

So we’re talking about the big contenders for 2024. There’s an undeniable enthusiasm for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Republican Party. Some are speculating he could be the next Trump. And DeSantis is kind of your frenemy, I think. You’re both Republicans, but throughout the pandemic, you had public battles on topics like mask mandates, seeking to keep the economy open. DeSantis passed a series of executive orders to stop localities from enforcing Covid restrictions that you were trying to do. How do you think he handled the pandemic? And how did you think about it?

francis suarez

I think he took some chances, some risks, some of which panned out for him. I think that he started off giving us a lot of latitude. When I say us, I mean the local governments, a lot of latitude. And then he stopped abruptly. And I think that was a mistake, and I told him that. And that’s where we clashed, if you will. I feel that you can’t treat the state equally because it’s not. I mean, Miami is the densest city in the state by a long shot. And so, on the mask mandates, for example, he didn’t agree with that. I don’t think — and by the way, I’m not so sure it was him or his people around him. You know how this is. Somebody didn’t like my candor on national television, you know? And so that sort of affected the relationship and the communication, which is kind of sad because, frankly, you need to communicate. You don’t always have to agree, but you need to communicate. And I don’t have any ill will towards him. If he called me tomorrow and wanted my advice or wanted to talk to me about an issue, I’d pick up his call and talk to him tomorrow.

kara swisher

So but you and other Florida mayors, not just you, said that DeSantis was avoiding talking to you. Is he still refusing your calls? What is your relationship with the governor? When was the last time you spoke?

francis suarez

I haven’t tried to call him in a while. There was a moment in time I think right after that, that disagreement, where communication stopped. I called a couple times and couldn’t get through. And then you just get tired of trying after a while.

kara swisher

And you said he took a risk, and it worked out for him because Florida’s unemployment rate is lower, death rates were similar to the national average. So was that right in the end?

francis suarez

Well, I’ll say this. Yeah, I think he can argue that it was, and I think he can make a compelling argument. And I think also part of this migration from New York and from Silicon Valley was in part due to that decision, right? I mean, I have to be honest about it. And the epidemiologist will tell you — and it’s understandable, it’s their job — you got to close everything, all the time. The public policy decision maker needs to balance that with, look, on the one hand, if you shut everything down, you’ll probably have a better chance of avoiding this, but you also create this. And I think there wasn’t enough discussion about what you create when you do this, which is a lot of devastation.

kara swisher

You were spotted indoors without a mask. What do you say to critics who might say that your stance against DeSantis was performative?

francis suarez

No, I was not spotted indoors without a mask. I was outdoors. I was sitting down at my table, which I wasn’t supposed to wear mask when I’m sitting at a table. It was a table of four. And somebody came to take a picture with me. I stood up. I should have put my mask on, right, to take the picture. And I didn’t put my mask on. I took the picture. Whatever. The point is, it was wrong. I shouldn’t have done it. Look, I made a mistake and —

kara swisher

Right, I don’t think it was the only time. It was a couple of times that you were —

francis suarez

No, the second time was, it was my parents’ anniversary.

kara swisher

Yes, family indoors, yeah.

francis suarez

We were sitting at a table of 10, OK? And then I got up with my family. It was my parents’ 40-something year anniversary. And we stood behind to take a picture. Sometimes the rules don’t make sense for every situation when somebody’s taking a picture with their family —

kara swisher

Sure, I get it. But it did get a lot of politicians caught in this kind of performative, what’s going on here, got you, kind of thing.

francis suarez

No, but I think the media loves that, too. We have to put some blame there. And there’s an excitement to, oh, got you. Look, this guy. And look, everything that we did, we made people happy. And we made people upset. When I put a mask in public, there were a lot of people that were not happy about it.

kara swisher

So while vaccine uptake in South Florida is on par with the national average of about 40 percent, experts are saying it seems to be slowing down. What are you doing to combat hesitancy and misinformation in Miami itself, though? What are you doing now?

francis suarez

Look, I think the fact that we’re vaccinating at the rate that we are is extremely comforting. Now everybody can get vaccinated at all ages, obviously, all adults. And I think that that’s something that we have to just keep messaging. I’m about to get my second shot in the next week. And I did it very publicly. Obviously, I was the second person to get Covid in Dade county.

kara swisher

That’s right. You got Covid yourself.

francis suarez

Yeah.

kara swisher

Right.

francis suarez

And so that was an interesting experience for me and sharing that experience with the public. So I think we’re actually doing very well. [MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

We’ll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Hillary Clinton. And you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Mayor Suarez after the break.

Let’s get into tech. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here. So your city has become a haven for some tech bros during the pandemic.

francis suarez

And broettes. Why bros only?

kara swisher

Broettes, right. That’s true. Fair point.

francis suarez

Why bros only?

kara swisher

You’re right. So you’re welcoming them with open arms, and you want to make Miami the next big tech hub. But why is it a goal of yours to make Miami a tech hub?

francis suarez

It should be a goal of every city. It shouldn’t be a goal of the city of Miami. It should be a goal of every city in the world — not in the country, in the world — to create a tech ecosystem. Why? Everything that we do is dominated by technology, whether we like it, whether we don’t like it, whether we think the companies are responsible or irresponsible, Republican or Democrat. All these other issues are legitimate issues about technology. But the one issue that’s indisputable is that it exists and that it will continue to dominate more and more our society. And so, for me, I have to create the kind of economy where everybody can be successful. And that means — because I think the jobs of tomorrow and the jobs that are going to be created are jobs in tech. And I’m less concerned about the companies that exist today, the Googles and the Facebooks and the Microsofts and all that, and I’m more concerned about the companies that are going to be created tomorrow.

kara swisher

Tomorrow, so the tomorrow companies. Because Google has not moved to Miami, neither has Microsoft. Neither will they. They will stay —

francis suarez

No, Microsoft is, actually. Microsoft is going to take — it’s taking a huge position —

kara swisher

They’re not moving from their headquarters, I’m talking.

francis suarez

No, no, no, no, no, and I don’t expect any of them to. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect any of them to move a massive — by the way, I don’t think Miami and the landscape really makes sense in that sense. That’s not my goal.

kara swisher

All right, so tech leaders like Keith Rabois, Peter Thiel, and others have already moved there. They opened the Founders Fund branch. What is attracting people to your city? Because one of the things, I have to say, is you’re nice to them, and they’re much-aggrieved people. The richest people in the world feel like they’re the biggest victims often, and it’s exhausting to listen to them talk about that. That’s my impression, is that you pet them a little bit. And that’s something. They never hug them or whatever. What do you think is attracting these people to your city, besides you being nice to them?

francis suarez

I think that other reasons are quality of life is a big one. I think that there’s a perception that some of these cities are taxing the residents by too much. And I’ve even heard them say, look, I don’t mind necessarily paying more taxes. But if I felt like I was getting a return on my investment, if homelessness was under control, if crime was under control, then maybe I would tolerate it. But and then on top of everything else, we’re the scourge of society. I think that’s kind of a toxic mix for anybody, frankly, whether they’re in tech or in finance or whatever industry they’re in. And I do think we’re creating a model that will be scaled and that is scalable. And I think that is something that —

kara swisher

All right, so what do you have? What is your pitch? Less homelessness is not really a pitch. It’s not what you are. What is the actual pitch?

francis suarez

I think the first thing we do is we reduce taxes to the lowest level that we can. We don’t have a city income tax. We don’t have a property tax. We’re growing like crazy. So there’s a misperception, in my opinion, that when you have a budget deficit, you have to increase taxes. That’s the solution to a budget deficit, which is what New York is doing, right? And then we put ourselves in a situation where, now, we can reduce taxes and still grow. So it’s sort of a counterintuitive thing but that’s what we do. That’s number one. Number two is, while other cities are defunding their police, we have increased funding in our police. And the third thing that we do is we focus on quality of life. And I think when you look at the buffet of options of what you can do in a city, Miami is differentiating itself in ways that I think is making it extremely competitive.

kara swisher

So you’re saying sort of lifestyle is fun and cosmopolitan and diverse. You’re saying taxes are lower. And there’s not as much crime, right? OK, LinkedIn Corporation just did proprietary data migration based on changes in workers’ profiles. And its principal economist said there’s definitely been a large percentage of increase in tech migration to Miami from the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, he says the total back and forth flow of such people when you look at who’s leaving and who’s coming between the Bay Area and greater Miami was less than one-tenth on average between San Francisco and, say, New York, or Los Angeles, or Seattle. It’s certainly up, and those municipalities have always attracted tech people, those three in particular, along with Austin. Do you look at it as a gain just to be talking up Miami, or are you just getting the talk started? Because you hadn’t really been in the discussion.

francis suarez

Well, we hadn’t been in the discussion. There’s no doubt about that. I mean, so look, we have, I think — I’m just looking at a sheet here. It talks about some of the companies that have moved. SoftBank —

kara swisher

It’s investing $100 million in Miami start-ups.

francis suarez

Yeah, I mean, that is a huge accomplishment. I mean, imagine. We want to take that and create an innovation ecosystem that delivers for everyone.

kara swisher

So you’ve also made a big push for cryptocurrency, which is an interesting area. Crypto exchange FTX has a deal with the Miami Heat Arena, which is now being called the FTX. He attributed it to you, the C.E.O. Why is crypto important to you?

francis suarez

I saw it as an opportunity. And so I thought, again, going back to that sort of thesis of, are we going to really get Google and Facebook and Microsoft to come here, or are we going to create the next set of those companies? To me, the crypto industry was one where we could jump in headfirst, and there wasn’t competition.

kara swisher

So you’ll sit with any Silicon Valley C.E.O. You’ll meet via Twitter. You’re very accessible. You text back right away. Why do you make it so easy to meet with you? And are you worried about becoming a pushover to some of these people? They like to push.

francis suarez

I’ve always been very accessible. Call it youthful exuberance, call it energy, call it näiveté. When I first ran for office in 2009, I actually would put on my mailouts my cell phone number. And it’s still the same cell phone number that I have. So I’ve always sort of prided myself on that. I’ve always felt that technology gives us an ability to be more accessible, more transparent. Is there a danger in it? Sure. You know what I mean? I think sometimes people try to use your transparency against you. They try to bait you into certain situations. And I have to be very careful of that. In terms of the tech people having too much influence or wanting to — look, politics — I’m running a billion dollar company with 4,500 employees and four labor unions. People trying to influence my decisions is not a new thing. You know what I mean? For 12 years of my life as a public servant, people are always trying to influence your decisions. So whether somebody gives me a check for $2,000 or $200 or $200,000, it doesn’t matter to me.

kara swisher

OK, well, talk about that because you’re getting a lot of money from tech investors. You have recent Miami newcomer Jon Oringer from Shutterstock donated $100,000. Chamath Palihapitiya, who I know lives in Palo Alto or the area —

francis suarez

Right, 250.

kara swisher

250, $250,000. $50,000 from cryptocurrency investor Michael Komaransky. Are you courting these figures? Or why do you think they’re giving you the money? People tend to make connections. Like, what do they want? Because you’re meeting with all the tech bro and broettes. And they’re giving you money for your re-election campaign. Do you worry about looking like you’re their guy?

francis suarez

No.

kara swisher

They don’t have a lot of — a lot of people have turned on tech. You know that. You get that, right?

francis suarez

Yeah, look, Kara, I mean, I think the same goes for construction. Look, am I now going to say, I’m not going to take $1 from anybody who’s building anything in the city? Or I mean, look, could I be a purist and say I’m not taking money from anybody? Sure, but that’s just not the way the world works right now. I mean, if campaigns didn’t need to be funded, if you didn’t need to get your message out there, if funding wasn’t something that was an indication of the business community’s ability to vote for you, right, to express their preference for you, because they can’t vote, right, in person — a lot of them don’t live in the city — then we live in a different system. And by the way, I’d be happy in that system. I have no problem with that system. I think I would be successful in that system because that would be a system that relies more on ideas and the ability to articulate them. But that’s an unfortunate reality in politics. And you just got to deal with it.

kara swisher

Miami doesn’t have the infrastructure to support a tech hub yet. There’s no Stanford. There’s no Sand Hill Road. Your university just doesn’t have a world class engineering school. And so what is your actual plan to make this real? Because that is critical to employees. You can’t just have everybody mad at London Breed coming there. That’s really not going to be enough.

francis suarez

That’s fair.

kara swisher

So do you have the power to make this happen? And how do you get that to happen?

francis suarez

So two points. The first about Miami doesn’t have a Sand Hill Road, I think that’s a little bit overblown. I’ve kind of always said Twitter is my Sand Hill Road. I think we’ve created a virtual Sand Hill Road. That’s part of it.

kara swisher

But engineering school.

francis suarez

I do think you’re onto something there. And I have challenged all the university presidents. There are three here, major ones. They’ve all three of them have gotten significant gifts in the last six months: Miami on Data Science Center from the Knight Foundation, F.I.U. on their STEM new campus that they’re building, and Miami-Dade College on artificial intelligence from IBM. Do I think that we need some competition? And do I think we need a Stanford, an M.I.T., a Harvard? Absolutely. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we don’t. Am I talking to Northeastern? Am I talking to Stanford? Yes, I’m talking to all of them. We need to change our reputation in this space tomorrow. And the only way you can do that quickly, I think, one is to build up the already existing institutions. I think that takes a lot of time. I think the other way is to attract institutions that already have their reputation, and that can be done quickly.

kara swisher

So a Stanford branch in Miami.

francis suarez

Correct, that’s right.

kara swisher

So you’ve also said your priority is to cut taxes, which, by the way, are already lower in Florida than in California and New York. If you’re going to bring these people in anyway, why not tax them and use the money to solve problems in Miami like this or like poverty, for example?

francis suarez

We don’t believe in Miami that government is the answer to our problems. We don’t believe that in the history of humanity government has ever proven to be a super effective solution-driven model for solving social problems. I think the better thing is to get them to be philanthropic, which they are already being. For example, Ken Griffin, who is not on the tech side, but on the finance side, who came down from Citadel, they gave us $5 million, which we leveraged, to do a program called Miami Connected, which creates opportunity for our children to be successful in this tech environment that we’re going to find ourselves in. And I think that is something we can leverage the private sector for. I don’t believe the taxing model works because I think it just pushes those people out, as we’ve seen in these other cities. And we don’t believe in bigger government. In Miami, we had big enough government in Cuba, and that didn’t work out for anybody. The only thing that that created was equal misery.

kara swisher

OK, but sometimes you just can’t always rely on the kindness of strangers because that’s what they are right now. They are moving to Miami. But let me say, Miami actually is the second-worst metro area in terms of income inequality. If we use San Francisco as an example, inviting the tech industry has led to rent inflation, displacement, gentrification.

francis suarez

Let me just take one step back and just say this. There’s another fundamental misunderstanding where taxing people gets you more resources. It kind of gets you more resources in the short run, but if people leave, you end up losing your resources. So this is where I think New York is in a death spiral, right? And what are they going to do to solve the budget deficit? They’re going to tax people. And that is going to create more people leaving. And what’s going to happen next year? They’re going to have a budget deficit. And what are they going to do next year? They’re going to tax people again. And so when you’re getting these marginal tax rates, there becomes a point where the system collapses.

kara swisher

Though New York City has much better public services than Miami. Not giving people good enough public services is the answer to not taxing people.

francis suarez

Do they really? I would say not. But I mean, the one thing they do have is more comprehensive public transportation system without a doubt. But they’re building it at $2 billion a mile, which, to me, is absurd when there are companies that are doing it for $10 million a mile.

kara swisher

So when you think about what you’re providing for your city, are you worried when you look at cities like San Francisco that have brought tech in that it was — listen, it was a very pro-tech administration for decades, you know what I mean? Do you worry about what happened in cities like San Francisco with between the tech industry and the city over time?

francis suarez

No, I don’t worry. When you look at, for example, the cost of living differentials between Miami and San Francisco and New York, a one-bedroom apartment unsubsidized — meaning the government has not put a penny into the building — in downtown Miami and some of the areas that you probably visited when you were down here, in Omni, $1,450 unsubsidized. That same apartment in San Francisco or New York? $3,500 easily, right? So we have already a huge cost of living benefit. Issue number two, in terms of affordable housing is supply. New York is basically built out. San Francisco is basically built out. They have put all kinds of restrictions on development. We have the ability to grow in our physical landscape. So we’re going to have supply into the very far foreseeable future, which keeps prices low. And the third thing is, we have found a model through public-private partnerships to build affordable housing.

kara swisher

Climate change. Sea levels are flooding are on the rise in Miami. So what is your plan to slow that down? How are you going to make sure that more development, like you’re talking about, and growth doesn’t make that worse?

francis suarez

Sure, I think it’s an existential crisis for the world. If we don’t make decisions about these crises, we could have national security implications that are much greater than just adaptation problems, right? So I think when we’re talking about politics, the conversation has to change. It has to stop being a, is this a manmade thing or not? And it’s got to be more about look, we know this is happening. We see it happening. We have to understand the ramifications of it happening, which is the national security ramifications, which I think makes it a little bit less political. Because I think, what do Republicans care about? And you start talking about national security, they care about national security. If you start talking about climate in the context of national security, it’s like, wait a second. I never really thought about that. Why would you talk about it in that context?

kara swisher

Well, you could argue why do you have to convince people about science? A lot of the conversation, it isn’t an argument. It’s one side saying it doesn’t exist, so.

francis suarez

Kara, but this is life.

kara swisher

Right, OK.

francis suarez

You know what I mean? Like, semantics matter to some people.

kara swisher

It’s not like it’s partisan.

francis suarez

Well, right. But —

kara swisher

Injecting bleach, it just doesn’t work.

francis suarez

I agree it doesn’t work. But sometimes we have a role, as leaders, to de-partisan it, right? To make it understandable so that people start looking at it differently. Instead of looking at it like, am I going to take bleach or not, let’s look at it as, why do I need to solve this problem? Why is this problem so important that I need to solve it? And so for us, we see the problem very intimately. With hurricanes, we have much greater than usual frequency, intensity, and obviously, we have storm surge, which is an issue for us. We have what we call rain bombs, which means that more than usual intense rainfall. And we have what’s called dry day flooding, which is we actually call it king tide flooding when there’s king tide. We actually have a poor subsoil, which is a benefit and a detriment. And the water actually pulls from below. So those are three problems that we see, that we know. Why I feel confident about it is two reasons. The first is, in 1992, my dad was mayor, actually. We had probably the most devastating hurricane we’ve ever had, at least in my lifetime, right, which was Hurricane Andrew. We had 200 mile-per-hour plus winds. It decimated Florida city, just destroyed it, like in “The Wizard of Oz” blowing over Dorothy’s house. And we decided at that time that we were going to change and we were going to become the most wind resilient city on the planet. So every single building — [KNOCKING]

kara swisher

You just knocked on your window.

francis suarez

Every single building has impact windows, right? So now what’s our next challenge? It’s to be the most water resilient city in the planet, right? So we have actually invested — our residents did something that’s unusual. We actually voted to tax ourselves. And I agree with that in that context because it’s to build our infrastructure. So we spent $200 million, and we’re going to leverage that hopefully with the American Rescue Plan and hopefully with state funding. We’ve had a state legislature that, although Republican, sees this as an economic threat and has actually been very responsive on this issue. We are not putting our head in the sand. And I would say that we’re — and again, it’s going to sound fantastical, — but I’d say that we’re the city most prepared, certainly in the country, in terms of the resources that we have, the acknowledgment of the problem, and the plan to solve it.

kara swisher

So can you convince — because your legislature also passing crazy rules on trans people, all kinds of stuff, that is problematic. How do you look at a Republican Party that does that? And you are going to be — you want to be one of the standard bearers for that party.

francis suarez

I think they’re going to have to suffer the electoral consequences of what their policies are. And I think this last election was the first example of that. You found someone who I think you could easily characterize the president, the current president, as someone who’s a center left and someone who was normal and someone who articulated a vision that was not radical. And he beat an incumbent president. And so I think that is something if we, as a party, because, again, I hate to talk about it in these terms, but it’s —

kara swisher

You’re part of a party.

francis suarez

It’s a construct that everybody wants to talk about politics in. But if, as a party, you want to govern and you want to have an opportunity to create ideas, then you have to listen. You have to be reflective. You have to understand that in some cases, you cannot be as rigid on some of these issues. And you have to be flexible. And you have to understand the issue differently. That’s why I think talking about sea level rise and climate change as a national security issue, which it is, is a way to reframe the discussion and get people understanding the discussion from your side of the perspective.

kara swisher

Or on all sides. OK, I really am intrigued if you can be successful in the modern Republican Party, but —

francis suarez

We’ll see what happens.

kara swisher

We’ll see what happens. And thank you so much for taking this amount of time. I appreciate it.

francis suarez

Thank you.

kara swisher

All right, bye.

francis suarez

OK, have a good one. Bye bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Daphne Chen; edited by Nayeema Raza and Paula Szuchman; with original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Erick Gomez; and fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Liriel Higa, and Isvett Verde. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you — with the mayor’s phone number and a Florida-sized tax rebate — download any podcast app, then search for Sway, and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

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