Miami Mayor Interview

The Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez is looking to make the city Bitcoin, Crypto, and Tech friendly. The mayor talks about allocating some of the Miami’s treasury reserves into Bitcoin, allowing residents of Miami to pay taxes in Bitcoin and city officials to get paid in BTC. The Mayor recently met with the Winklevoss twins to help promote the city’s move to be crypto friendly. Miami was the first US city to host the Bitcoin whitepaper on its website.

Listen to the Podcast audio

Interview Transcription

Tony Edward: [00:00:10] Hi, everyone, welcome back to the thinking crypto channel. I have a very, very special guest with me, the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez. Mayor, it’s an honor to be speaking to you today. 

Francis Suarez: No, Tony, the honor is mine and it’s an honor to be on your podcast. 

Tony Edward: I’m very excited to speak to you because we’ve heard a lot of things going on in Miami, and your sales pitch is getting stronger. I want to move down today. 

Francis Suarez: This is not a virtual background for those who can’t see. You know what I’m talking about. That’s why you’re laughing? 

Tony Edward: Oh, yeah. I have two feet of snow outside and a lot of shoveling. So, Mayor, when did you first learn about Bitcoin, and what was your aha moment? 

Francis Suarez: I have actually been following Bitcoin and crypto and blockchain for a while. I’m on the Blockchain Foundation, the blockchain task force for the State of Florida, named by the CFO. I’m a finance undergrad. I’ve been involved in finance for a while. And also, my dad’s an engineer, my grandfather, his father is an engineer, Dean of the Engineering College. So, you know, we were always very mathematically oriented. And so the concept of creating a technological system, that, in essence, was a money exchange, and doing it in a decentralized fashion that is transparent, verifiable, and quick, to me, made a lot of sense. And frankly, it’s not really a big departure from what we’re already doing. 

People sort of misconceive, I think, the way money is right now. Obviously, we have a fiat currency in the US dollar. But if you go right now, and you want to see how much money you have in the bank account, you don’t walk to the bank, and then see like a little area where it says, Francis Suarez’s his account, and you see a bunch of stacks of bills. No. You go online, and you see what the electronic representation of the money that you have. So, it’s really not that big a departure from what we already do. The only difference is it’s not controlled by a central authority, meaning that it can’t be manipulated by central authority. 

Tony Edward: Absolutely. And we recently heard that you have plans to potentially put Bitcoin on Miami’s Treasury reserves, so to speak, or allocate some of the Treasury reserve to Bitcoin. Can you tell us about that? 

Francis Suarez: Yeah. There’s a couple of things that we’re looking at doing. One of them is we want to copy, you know, imitation is the highest form of flattery. We want to copy other states like Wyoming who have very crypto-friendly laws. So, we’re looking to do that at the state level. At the city level, we want to do three things. One is we want to give our employees an opportunity, or an option to receive a portion of their salary in Bitcoin or in crypto. We want to give our residents an opportunity to pay for fees and taxes in crypto as well. And the third thing that we’re looking at, depending on whether or not we can make it work is also holding Bitcoin as an investment in our Treasury. So, that is something that we’re looking at. It’s probably the third of the three things that we want to do because I think the other ones are a little easier to do. And we want to sort of walk before we can run, and we get people used to it. But it’s certainly, we want to be cutting edge. 

And frankly, I just think even talking about it pushes other people to do it. You know what I mean? Just the fact that we are talking about doing it, now everyone has that competitive of we want to get there first. So, I think that’s really healthy. I think it was — I forgot who it was that challenged to see how quickly — I think it was [inaudible 00:03:30] who challenged to see how quickly you could put the Satoshi white paper on. And we were the second entity — second country after Estonia, and Miami was the first American city and government that put it on the website. And just doing something as simple as that. I think my tweet on that got three million impressions. I mean, it’s incredible, how doing something that is so simple, and so basic can have such a profound impact. 

Tony Edward: Absolutely. And I think you guys are certainly ahead of the curve. And I wanted to ask, are other cities in Florida or other states also calling you up and saying, “Mayor, tell us about this? What are you doing here?” 

Francis Suarez: They are. I have a good friend, Manny Cid from Miami Lakes, who just recently told me that they’re trying to do it. You know, look, everybody is watching all the amazing press that we’re getting. And they are, first of all, very thankful and a lot of them are calling to say, “Hey, how can we produce this?” And what I often tell them, particularly when they’re in South Florida is look, throw your arms around the Miami brand. You know, Miami is not just a city. Miami is like an idea. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of life. And I don’t think it’s confined to one geographic boundary. So, I tell the mayors of Boca, the mayors of Fort Lauderdale, great guys, great mayors, hey, throw your arms around the Miami brand and differentiate yourself. But let’s all talk about this in the same way that we’re all from Miami. 

Tony Edward: Sure. And Mayor, do you personally own any cryptocurrencies? Are you holding Bitcoin? 

Francis Suarez: You know, it’s funny, I’ve been asked the question a lot. I have family members that do and what I’m going to do — I actually don’t. So, the answer is I don’t. But I’m going to soon. And I think the way I’m going to do it is I’m going to have a couple of friends who have really interesting exchanges and opportunities to be able to buy them. You know, the Winklevoss twins with the Gemini and Bryan Armstrong with Coinbase. So, we’re probably going to do something where I open my crypto wallet and buy my first crypto probably in the next couple of weeks. So, that’s something — look out for that. That’s going to be exciting. 

Tony Edward: Awesome. I’m looking forward to that. So, you mentioned the Winklevoss twins. I personally interviewed them, great guys, they were down in Miami, we saw you guys met together. Any hints as to any other items that may be coming along the line with them? 

Francis Suarez: Well, my job, obviously, is to pitch Miami. And they are amazing guys. They’re really, really phenomenal people. And, first of all, they’re brilliant. Second of all, they’re incredibly ethical. And they really want to build this — sort of the product, right, in a way that is acceptable to the general public. And they’re very smart and strategic about it. So, I commend them for what they’re doing. Of course, my job is to try to get them down here. So, I think they’re considering some things that I’ll let them talk about or maybe announced later. But we’re certainly working on increasing Gemini’s presence and their presence in our city because we want special people like them. 

Tony Edward: Absolutely. So, what are some of the incentives that you’re offering to not just crypto companies, but tech companies as a whole, to attract them to Miami? 

Francis Suarez: Well, we start with the basics. What are the things that people may or may not know about our city? You know, it’s January, and like I said, this is not a virtual background. So, I think people first see this as a place where you have a premium quality of life. Then you look at the tax situation. And when you compare Miami to places like New York and San Francisco, those places have a higher cost of living and they have a much, much higher tax threshold. So, you’re working half the year for somebody else. You know what I mean? When you’re giving more than half of the money that you make over to the government. So, those two things alone are enormous differentiators. But aside from that, we have incentives for small companies that are located in our downtown area, they get $50,000 a year for three consecutive years if they fit the program. 

If they’re larger companies and they’re putting in more than a $3 million investment and making more than 10 — creating more than 10 jobs, they can get up to an 80% discount from their property taxes for a 10-year period. So, when you think about what does a company think about in terms of investing, if you invest in an opportunity zone, and you invest more than $3 million, create more than 10 jobs, right, you could literally not have to pay any state income taxes, not have to pay any local income taxes, have an 80% discount on 50% of your property taxes, and pay zero federal income taxes if you sell the business in 10 years, if you’re in an opportunity zone. So, the tax proposition alone is life-changing, life-altering. So, when you can bring that all together and you put that in one package, the question really isn’t why should someone move to Miami? The real question is, why haven’t they already? 

Tony Edward: Sure, absolutely. I love that and I love your vision for Miami being tech focus. And one thing I did want to ask and this may be not on the table yet, but obviously, there’s a mining boom in the United States around Bitcoin. Are you planning to do anything around that with miners? 

Francis Suarez: No. We again, we want to be as crypto-friendly, crypto-forward as possible. So, we want laws that allow for banking. We want laws that allow for exchanges. In terms of mining, we have large data centers, we have great infrastructure, fiber in terms of what you would need, a computing power. You know, Florida Power and Light is one of the biggest nuclear power plants in the country. So, we have the ability to power large computing stations and large computing data centers. So, we think as a mining area, we could be as competitive or probably more competitive than any place on Earth, frankly. 

Tony Edward: Wow. Final question here. Right now, the crypto market is still a bit nascent. It’s on the rise, it’s maturing and there’s still a need for regulatory clarity in some areas. Have you personally engaged with regulators and DC and other folks to try to push the market forward? 

Francis Suarez: Yeah. So, we’re doing that at the state level right now. I haven’t been asked to get involved in federal regulation, but I certainly would be amenable to that. I feel like as a mayor, you’re sort of the boots on the ground and you have a very unique perspective. So, I have absolutely no problem with getting involved with federal regulation because it’s something that I believe in. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t take the time and the energy and spend the time to push it. 

Tony Edward: Absolutely. So, Mayor, because we’re short on time here, I want to wrap it up with some quick rapid fire. What’s your favorite food? 

Francis Suarez: Well, I just had some [inaudible 00:10:22] which was really good and some pasta. It was excellent. 

Tony Edward: Awesome. Favorite musician or band? 

Francis Suarez: I think — I don’t know why Phil Collins is coming to mind right now. I’m not sure why but that’s what’s coming to my mind right now. 

Tony Edward: Can’t go wrong with Phil Collins. Favorite movie? 

Francis Suarez: E.T. is coming to my mind, but I like Forrest Gump too. 

Tony Edward: Very cool. And favorite book? 

Francis Suarez: Well, Bitcoin Billionaires, of course. How could I not answer it that way? I mean, I have a — Tyler and Cameron signed a copy for me and I gotta give them a shout-out for that. 

Tony Edward: Absolutely. And finally, when you’re not doing mayoral duties, what are you doing for fun as far as a hobby? 

Francis Suarez: Well, I’m probably in the water, you know. And I love to spearfish, I love to snorkel. I love being — I find a tremendous amount of peace being underwater because you’re out of your element, you’re in the element of the fish and it’s just a lot of fun and beautiful and very stimulating. 

Tony Edward: Awesome. Mayor, I’m looking forward to the future updates around Miami and Bitcoin, and crypto. And thank you so much for joining us today. 

Francis Suarez: You got it, Tony. Thank you so much. Have a good one. [00:11:30]