Miami May Start Paying City Employees in Bitcoin

Elon Musk has become Mayor Francis Suarez’s partner in publicity.

Elon Musk has become Mayor Francis Suarez’s partner in publicity.
Photo: Hannibal Hanschke (Getty Images)

Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, is champing at the bit to rebrand his city as a haven for tech entrepreneurs and the tax dollars that come in their wake. His latest branding effort involves a push to make the city offer its municipal workers the option to get paid in bitcoin, and he’d love it if citizens could pay their taxes using the volatile cryptocurrency as well.

On Thursday, Suarez announced on Twitter that Miami’s governing commission approved a resolution allowing the city to study the feasibility of providing city employees with the option of being paid in bitcoin. Details of the meeting haven’t been uploaded to the city’s website yet, but Bloomberg reports that the resolution was a bit less ambitious than the mayor originally wanted.

The commission gave its approval of the measure in a 4-1 vote but tweaked the language to commission a study by the city’s manager evaluating the impact of the resolution’s goals. Those goals also include the potential of allowing the city to invest a portion of its funding into bitcoin. That could require approval at the state level.

Suarez has been eager to take on workers in the tech industry who are fleeing Silicon Valley’s high cost of living at a time when most of their work is being done remotely. Most recently, he made headlines after he spoke with Elon Musk about the Boring Company building underground tunnels to help alleviate Miami’s traffic problems. “If Governor & Mayor want this done, we will do it,” Musk tweeted. But critics say such an initiative could be a fool’s errand because, among other things, the ground beneath the city is highly dissolvable limestone that’s pocked with caves. Even if the logistical hurdles were overcome, it would be an extremely expensive project, one geologist told Curbed.

Suarez’s techno-utopianism isn’t new, he’s been a regular speaker at the annual North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami and he’s been courting Silicon Valley royalty like Eric Schmidt and Chris Dixon to help lead a tech migration to his city.

Offering employees an option to get paid in space bucks isn’t particularly absurd, but the notion of investing city funds into bitcoin could be a bridge too far. The price of the cryptocurrency hit an all-time high close to $19,000 in 2017. By January of 2019, it was hovering around $3,200. As of this morning, the cryptocurrency is going for $47,700. That kind of volatility has made bitcoin impractical for use as a currency, but it’s hard to argue with the long-term gains. Still, it might be a more trustworthy bet than giving Elon permission to go digging up the foundation of a sinking city.

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