Miami mayor hopes crypto will make it 'the most innovative city on the planet'

Francis Suarez, Miami Mayor, talks MiamiCoin after the city votes to access $4.5M in city-based crypto funds.

Video Transcript

- Well, new cryptocurrency could help budget shortfalls in the city of Miami. On Monday, the city's commissioners approved a plan to accept crypto donations made through crypto mining platform, City Coins. The currency known as MiamiCoin has generated more than five million dollars for the city in just a matter of 40 days.

Let's bring in the mayor of Miami, we've got Francis Suarez joining us today. Mayor, great to talk to you again. I guess just some background here, it's important to note that every time somebody mines a MiamiCoin, the city gets a 30% donation. You've said you've seen that number tick up pretty quickly, why go this route?

FRANCIS SUAREZ: Well, we want to be the most innovative city in the planet and we also realize that for us to get there, we have to differentiate ourselves. We're not the Goliath in this equation, we're the David. And we're quickly growing in terms of the amount of venture capital and the amount of assets under management financing firms that are coming down and moving down to Miami.

But we identified crypto as an area where we could really show how innovative we can be as a city. And so, we're the first city to begin the process of paying our employees a percentage in Bitcoin, allowing our residents to be paid in Bitcoin.

And now with MiamiCoin, what we're doing is potentially creating a currency that percentage of the mining is automatically going to the city, as you said. It's going to redefine how cities are funded.

It's not an involuntary tax, we're not relying on philanthropy, this is part of a protocol that any time a MiamiCoin is mined, a percentage goes directly to the city. And the amount that it has generated is incredible.

Is generated, I think, it's $2000 every 10 minutes at this particular pace, five million dollars in 30 or 40 days, that could generate $60 million over the course of a year. And if this continues to be successful and grow, it could pay a significant portion of our budget, which is something that has never really happened in the history of cities.

- And Mayor, I wonder if you can elaborate on that a bit more, there's obviously the innovation element to this. We know you've been out front very publicly trying to really get the city to be at the forefront of cryptocurrency.

But I wonder how much of this was actually bored out of need because of some of the budget shortfalls that Miami's faced. Does it provide a cushion? And if that's the case, do you see other cities following at a time when they're also struggling with their budgets on the back of what's played out during the pandemic?

FRANCIS SUAREZ: Well, I can guarantee you that other cities are going to want to copy this model. In fact, I know I've gotten calls from mayors even from cities in Silicon Valley, that have said we can't believe this, the mayor of Miami is creating his own currency.

But I think what's great about it is that it's providing real world benefits to our residents. The money that's generated, we hope to be able to put into educational opportunities for our children, to be able to get the jobs that we're generating. We've generated 8,000 jobs with an average salary of 120,000 in the last nine months alone, we can pay our police officers, our firefighters, we can do anything within our general fund budget that we need resources for.

And like I said, as the market cap of MiamiCoin continues to grow, the amount of resources that it's going to generate will as well, and it has never happened this way before. And so I think this is going to create a national model that people will look at as a different way of funding our government.

- And Mayor Suarez, it is interesting to watch all this play out and the funds here it sounds like it's going to be sold into dollars when the city plans to tap it and use it, so there is that, in terms of restrictions still being restricted to dollars.

When you look at the attraction, though, beyond the money bringing it in, as Akiko was kind of talking, attracting companies to Miami. I know blockchain.com when we were down there for Bitcoin Miami over the summer, they announced they were shifting half their headquarters to Miami. I mean, what have you seen in terms of new companies relocating down there, specifically in the blockchain space?

FRANCIS SUAREZ: Wow, we've been so many. Like you said, blockchain.com, you have eToro, you have ZTO that just recently moved to Miami and actually took the naming rights for Inter Miami soccer team, of course, famously FTX which did a $200 million deal to rename the arena. So we've seen such a movement. Like you said, the Bitcoin conference which came from LA and is now in Miami, it's one of the major Bitcoin conferences.

But we haven't just seen crypto companies, we've also seen finance companies. And just this week alone, CI financial, enormous investment management firm out of Canada, moved to Miami, $300 billion of assets under management.

So this narrative of the new Miami and a city of innovation is one that is becoming a reality more and more as you see the pipeline of deal flow growing by a large factor and you see big finance companies moving as well.

- Yeah. I mean, it is interesting because you guys are obviously very progressive and on the cutting edge here in the States. But the state of Florida, at the state level, we've heard maybe some pushback from Governor DeSantis when it comes to vaccine mandates.

And I'd be curious if that's kind of weighed on maybe some of that, and particularly you as mayor, the threat from him to fine local governments $5,000 for each time there is a violation of that vaccine mandate at the local level. I mean, how much pressure does that put on you as a mayor in Miami?

FRANCIS SUAREZ: One of the things that we've done very successful in Miami is actually get people vaccinated. I was looking at our statistic this morning, it was almost hard to believe that 98% of our eligible population has received at least one shot. And so we are heavily vaccinated in Miami as part of the reason why now, thankfully, our numbers are coming down significantly.

But we do see, and I have said this many times before, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. So I fought very, very hard alongside private companies like Norwegian Cruise Lines and the cruise industry and Disney, to fight the state's efforts to impose on those private companies and inability to make sure that their passengers and their employees are vaccinated.

And so I think that those kinds of things, where the government is telling the private sector what to do, are not things that are helpful to private enterprise and I think that private companies should have the right to be able to protect their employees and their customers.

- Mayor, let's talk about something else you've been very outspoken about, and that is climate action. You've been a big vocal proponent of that, not just working with mayors in the US but leaders around the world.

And yet there's growing concern about the carbon footprints of cryptocurrencies and particularly the use of energy that's required to mine crypto. What do you say to those who say that your embrace of crypto and this push for it runs counter to some of the other actions you are pushing for in trying to rein in the carbon footprint.

FRANCIS SUAREZ: Well, I would tell them to do their homework. First of all, a lot of the ESG concerns of miners has to do with the fact that the large percentage of mining was happening in coal producing countries like China and Russia.

What we saw with China shutting down mining is actually a lot of that mining coming over to the United States, which is being done predominantly by ESG compliant companies. In fact, a Core Scientific, which is the largest Bitcoin miner in the United States, is carbon neutral, it's a carbon neutral Bitcoin miner. They get hydroelectric power and they pay for offsets, so they are completely carbon neutral.

So the mining companies in the United States are very conscientious of ESG concerns and are making sure that to the extent that they are mining, they're doing it in a responsible way vis-a-vis the environment. That's why I'm so excited to see America getting more involved in mining because we're doing it the right way as opposed to other countries that are doing it the wrong way.

- And, of course, there are those who say that mining will actually be supportive of the expansion of renewable energy, so both sides to that debate for sure. Mayor Suarez, it's always good to have you on, really appreciate the time today.

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