Big wheels in DC, Tallahassee can learn from skate park
Written by Michael Lewis on August 22, 2017
Memo to Washington and Tallahassee on how to get things moving in these days of partisanship, division and government gridlock: just skate over to Northeast Miami-Dade – literally.
A federal government that would have trouble right now agreeing that ice is cold and water is wet without making it a partisan issue and a state government that wouldn’t vote before tallying on a napkin whether there would be enough yes votes to override a veto could learn a lot by looking into Haulover Park, where six governments agreed to share costs to build a skate park.
Okay, it’s not exactly health care or a federal or state budget in magnitude. It’s just a small service to a fairly small constituency of skaters who want a recreation area of their own. But people presumably from two parties cooperated to serve the public – “presumably from two parties” because in our local governments we don’t ask which party our leaders belong to, just whether they do the job well. The jobs are all listed as non-partisan.
Some day some of those leaders might graduate into higher levels of government, into places where it matters far more whether they’re campaigning for office under the sign of the elephant or the donkey than whether they improve the lives of their constituents or save them tax money or play well with others.
But for now, they’re just plain old public servants – a term that seems to be forgotten at the federal and state levels by too many people who think the public is there to serve them rather than vice versa.
What did these folks do? Nothing spectacular. They just cooperated and put their local money voluntarily where their mouths were to get a job done.
As we reported last week, a skate park in Sunny Isles Beach closed because of noise complaints. But skaters still wanted a park to skate in.
So Miami-Dade County kicked in the land for a park in the southwest corner of Haulover Park, and Sunny Isles Beach, which had just lost its own skate park, kicked in $150,000. Both of those governments were directly involved.
But the cooperation gets better: the mayors of four neighboring communities, who had no responsibility to help out, got involved. All four – Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, Miami Beach and Surfside – kicked in $50,000 each to make a new skate park a reality.
Try getting that voluntary cooperation in Washington and see how easy it is.
As a result of the cooperation, residents from all of those governmental jurisdictions – which are after all only artificial lines on a map where there is no thought of walls to keep people in or out – will soon be able to enjoy a skating park that they wanted.
Maybe the lesson is that we’re all in this together. Maybe it’s that partisan labels matter less than a willingness to work together. Maybe it’s that a little cooperation today will go a long way to help the next time there is an issue in Northeast Dade, maybe a far more serious issue like sea level rise.
Or maybe the lesson is all of those, plus one more: a little imagination among a willing group of government participants can solve a whole lot of problems if none of them stands up and tries to claim all the credit.
Of course, it’s hard to tell Tallahassee or Washington leadership to work together and simply share credit with all involved. Credit in those places seems these days to mean far more than achieving results.
As Mayor Bud Scholl of Sunny Isles Beach told our reporter Gabi Maspons, “In the days of partisanship and infighting, it’s nice to remember that doesn’t happen at the municipal level. We’re not partisan – we’re just interested in creating the best space for our guests. Everyone’s hearts are in the right place.”
We’re all waiting to hear that sentiment echoed from Tallahassee and Washington – not just in word but in deed.