Jonathan Welsh wants to know, what happened to Miami Beach?
“I remember what Miami Beach used to look like,” Welsh recently said over the telephone.
In a resort city known for its art deco hotels and migratory population, Welsh has witnessed changing tides and doesn’t like what he sees.
“I look at Ocean Drive and I say, ‘What the fuck happened?” Welsh said.
Fashion is gone and many of Miami Beach’s famed locations have deteriorated sharply in recent years, Welsh lamented. South Beach neighborhoods along Collins Ave., Lincoln Road and Washington Ave. are shells of their former selves, Welsh said.
“I remember the fashion,” Welsh notes with a sad sound in his voice.
He also remembers $700 rent.
“People are paying a lot more for less now,” Welsh said.
Watching his community go into decline has pushed Welsh into action. He recently announced intentions to campaign for a City Commission seat in group five.
“Things need to change,” Welsh said. “The winds of change are blowing. It’s time.”
Welsh’s most recent service in the community is the role of communications director for Care Resource, a federally qualified health center. Care Resource, Welsh said, meets a variety of health and support needs for South Floridians. At Care Resource, Welsh has played an important role in organizing Miami’s famed White Party and AIDS Walk.
He now wants to bring new life back to a struggling city.
Once the scene of luxurious homes and thriving neighborhood associations, Miami Beach has slipped a notch – or two –Welsh said. It’s become more transient and expensive to live.
“People don’t build roots,” he said.
The absence of quality wage jobs in Miami Beach has created a culture of CVS, Walgreens, Starbucks and McDonald’s.
“We need real jobs, not bullshit ones,” Welsh said matter-of-factly.
Welsh said he intends to campaign on rising wages and takes the position Miami Beach “can be the Silicon Valley of the South.”
Welsh, 38, got his start in community organizing for the U.S. Peace Corps, working abroad in South Africa. The young gay man worked for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. He demonstrated his effectiveness in winning an area of Oregon that got him sent to the Democratic National Convention.
Welsh said he’s gay in a different way from South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of the leading contenders for the Democratic Party nomination.
“The second I open my mouth everyone knows,” Welsh said.
Welsh lays out many of his proposals on his webpage,
“There has to be smarter tourism,” he added near the end of the conversation. “And I don’t think we are doing that.”