Seven sensible steps by courageous chamber could aid all
By Michael Lewis
Never will more pivotal Miami-Dade activists be in the room at one time than Friday and Saturday as the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce huddles to set goals.
What better time, then, for the chamber to summon the wisdom and courage to attack head-on this community's major issues with concrete stands, to be followed by concerted, forceful action to turn wish into reality.
The chamber annually sets hundreds of goals. Few, however, require courage. Putting members on the line to attain a handful of vital but controversial aims would, however, be a different and noteworthy story.
Almost any strong chamber position that rocks the political boat would be welcome. Courage has been in short supply in past goals sessions.
If I were writing its script, the chamber would take gutsy stands entailing action to expand our economic sparkplug convention center right now, chop our mammoth school district into independent human-scale chunks, repeal the mass transit sales tax that isn't used for mass transit, prevent the county from seizing and further screwing up the Jackson Health System, eliminate single-member districts that have degraded county government, and petition onto the ballot a county commission pay raise from a pitiable $6,000 to $100,000.
Beyond those six sensible steps — all controversial but also vital — the chamber should act as catalyst to begin visioning the area's future path, then focus resources to achieve those aims. Visioning might have targeted $3 billion now lost to a baseball stadium to instead save our public health system.
Adopting an envisioned route to excellence is easier in areas dominated by mega-employers. Getting a chamber to take difficult stands and then follow through is easier when such powerful businesses dominate, or when corporate heads hold the top chamber roles.
It's also easier to target serious accomplishments and put chamber muscle behind them when the huge employers amply fund the chamber.
Likewise, attaining broader community buy-in is eased if key chamber efforts don't reflect narrow self-interest of dominant forces. Nothing is selfless, because a stronger community benefits every chamber member — as it does everyone else. But tying chamber goals to the pocketbooks of a few destroys credibility as well as effectiveness.
Fortunately, while the seven aims I've proposed are doubtless controversial, none could be construed as self-interest. All relate directly to the community's long-term best interest.
And because the area's key players will be in the room — lacking, as usual, Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who unlike predecessors has repeatedly denied chamber requests to address those who set goals — this week's meeting is perfect for the chamber to show the courage of commitment.
Of course, that risks failure. Even if, for example, the chamber did the right thing and pushed onto the ballot an honest pay level for commissioners to encourage more good candidates, there's no certainty voters would go along.
But if the yardstick is mere unanimity, chamber goals become pabulum — a bland mush.
With three strong women due to lead the chamber over the next three years, isn't this the time for more chamber backbone?
This week, as we mark the Best of Miami, is the time for chamber leaders to accept the challenge to become even better. This seven-point agenda is a long stride down that road.