Francis Suarez is the platonic ideal of what most people generally imagine a cisgender male politician should look like. He's fit, has a pronounced jawline, and by all accounts does not appear to be racist. The accolades basically end there. Any attempt to turn Suarez — a bland talker who is telegenic enough to distract people from the fact that he almost never says anything of substance — into a future leader is an exercise in needless hyperbole.
But people sure keep trying. Despite the fact that the 42-year-old Suarez occupies a surprisingly powerless job as Miami mayor and has done relatively little of note since winning the 2017 election, Time yesterday included Suarez on its "100 Next" list, a
craven attempt to wring more web traffic from the magazine's brand new yearly series of 100 supposedly "up-and-coming" notables who might one day graduate to Time's more traditional "100 Most Influential People" and "Person of the Year" issues.
Suarez has the exact sort of square jaw, thick hair, and mealy-mouthed lack of conviction that will likely make him a congressman or senator one day. So Time enlisted Florida's preeminent expert in political vacuousness — the increasingly hapless Marco Rubio — to wax poetic about all of the nothing that Suarez has accomplished as mayor.
Every "100 Next" entry is short, but Rubio's few paragraphs about Suarez are notably vague and don't list a single thing he has accomplished as mayor except the one time both men briefly went to a low-income housing project in Liberty City. Here's the whole thing:
Public service isn't about grabbing headlines, but about solving real problems facing those who live and work in our communities. While federal policymakers play an important role, local government leaders are often on the front lines of these issues. Francis Suarez understands and relishes this civic duty.
A Miami native, Francis is a passionate advocate for the community he represents. While his efforts to solve the big problems — everything from sea-level resilience to solutions to gun violence — are clear, I personally witnessed his commitment to solving problems that fly under the radar when we visited public-housing complexes together in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood.
Miami has a unique set of advantages and challenges. But Francis' desire to serve his community has consistently guided the city toward a promising future.
Rubio, a Republican, is a Senator from Florida.
If you feel like you have already forgotten every single word Rubio wrote, you shouldn't be alarmed — both Rubio and Suarez have that effect on people. To some extent, Suarez isn't entirely to blame here — Miami's city manager has far more control than the mayor has, and Suarez himself last year tried to turn his position into a strong mayor in order to feel like a real mayor. But the effort failed, and now he is, in many ways, a political figurehead at the city level.
The issue, of course, is that Suarez — son of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez — so far has not been a particularly good figurehead. His biggest asset as mayor is his bully pulpit, yet he seems either too aloof or too afraid to really use it. Commission meetings have devolved into petty infighting and random squabbles on his watch. (In many ways, he's been overshadowed by former Miami mayor and current commissioner Joe Carollo, who is too loud and insane for anyone to go toe-to-toe with in public.)
Because this is Miami, Suarez has already overseen multiple police scandals. When one Miami police officer was filmed trying to kick a defenseless man in the head last year, Suarez briefly promised to reform the department, but those changes never materialized and he rarely spoke about the issue again. In the meantime, he's been repeatedly photographed hanging out with one particular Miami cop with a long history of use-of-force and racism complaints against him.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Suarez's ethical issues have also, on occasion, seemed worrisome. In March, the Miami Herald published a staggering story outlining how the ultrarich residents of Fisher Island — by far Miami-Dade County's wealthiest zip code — hired the mayor to work as the island's lobbyist in front of county boards. Suarez has also consistently cheerled soccer star David Beckham's proposal to replace a city-owned golf course with a Major League Soccer stadium — and even at one point proposed suing a children's golf charity to clear space for the construction project. Perhaps more troublesome: Suarez and members of the city commission also met with Beckham and business partner Jorge Mas in what critics said was an act of unregistered lobbying, which then sparked an ethics complaint. Suarez has claimed to champion LGBTQ rights while also appearing on video with Brazil's virulently antigay leader Jair Bolsonaro. The mayor also recently handed motivational speaker Tony Robbins the key to the City of Miami — after Robbins was publicly accused of sexual misconduct.
Frankly, it's difficult to point to something concrete Suarez has actually done to leave a legacy as mayor or warrant inclusion on any sort of list like Time's. But that apparently won't stop anyone from trying to puff up his legacy anyway.
Update: Francis Suarez's spokesperson, Rene Pedrosa, emailed New Times to inform the newspaper that he was not a fan of this article.
'I found your article extremely disrespectful," he emailed. "I can not believe you didn't even make an attempt to reach out to the Mayors office. It was tasteless and lacked all sorts of fairness and balance. You can quote me."