Jobs, traffic, convention center require focus — and results
By Michael Lewis
Lingering needs from 2012 require action in 2013. Of issues we've been highlighting, focus on nine:
How can government elevate jobs and the economy? There's no more vital need, because we require a strong economy to tackle everything else.
Well, here's a way to place that impact center stage locally.
Miami-Dade cites on all proposed legislation its impact on county finances. Why not also enumerate as exactly as possible its impact on the local economy and jobs?
Do that in every local government and they'd tighten focus. Audit the assessments for how reality matches up with initial assumptions. Voters would pore over those numbers, which almost surely would rise. We'd be a national model.
Success of job-building consortium One Community One Goal is vital to foster growth of higher-income jobs in targeted areas that could make a major community impact.
Support for the process is vital — assuming action is being taken. Progress in this effort too deserves periodic and realistic audits, including measurement of job growth in the targeted areas against initial aims.
To keep the effort relevant and credible, job audits should start soon.
The drive to bring mega-casinos to South Florida imperils One Community One Goal's very goal of high-level, prosperity-building jobs. The casino movement, now in hiding, is preparing its next charge to change state law and reshape our economy toward lower-end jobs.
It's human to let sleeping dogs lie, but remember that this dog of an idea is just playing possum and is preparing to bite.
Another false nostrum was the claim that a baseball stadium would revitalize Little Havana and everything around it. It has done nothing.
Even if the public hadn't given away $3 billion in the deal, however, we shouldn't just look the other way as attendance slips with the Miami Marlins' salary and player dump. Let's squeeze a bit of lemonade out of this lemon.
That's tough, because the Marlins control all stadium use, so the public — government included — must seek external ways to spin off benefit for the neighborhood. If we wait for the Marlins, it won't happen.
Even while trying to make the ballpark a community asset, the county should reject inflated Marlins claims of pre-construction costs. The county challenged 439 items for $1.68 million but never recouped a dime. Every misspent penny is rent the Marlins will never pay.
Out of principle, the county shouldn't yield anything due to taxpayers. We gave the team gratis $3 billion in principal and interest. We need not give more.
In the same sorry category fall a range of City of Miami leases with business that end up as giveaways. From Watson Island to restaurants on city land, Miami has been in the freebie business.
Miami needs administrators bent on protecting assets, and commissioners with the drive to act. Most leases fail. It's not just bad luck. Voters need to weigh in on this.
While Marlins Park has been a fiscal disaster, Major League Baseball hasn't yet kept a related pledge to operate a $3 million baseball training camp for teens here.
Hialeah and the school board are trying to cut a land deal. Major League Baseball should lend a hand to get the park built fast and start keeping promises.
If Marlins owners weren't deaf to outrage, they'd quickly match Major League Baseball's pledge and finally do something in return for this community's $3 billion stadium gift.
A far greater need is a modern convention center. Money spent on the ballpark could have bolstered the visitor industry and the region by creating a world-class center to replace a 1950s retread; that didn't happen.
Now, Miami Beach is moving to cut a public-private deal for at least a convention center upgrade. County Hall should dig up capital funds to augment whatever the city and developers cobble together to prove that we're not only open for meeting business but can handle it well.
No convention center can prosper — and no visitor industry thrive — without a realistic way to get off the road to gridlock that we're rumbling down.
The crisis as a World War II-era bridge linking Miami and Key Biscayne fails to meet 21st century traffic needs is the leading edge of a traffic tsunami threatening us. Don't forget, this road goes to a resort and residential community that hosts a world-renowned tennis tournament.
Voters are already asking why the county ignored the Bear Cut Bridge to Key Biscayne until lanes had to be halved with no other route available. Under former manager George Burgess, the county had glossed over the bridge's weakness. As disaster nears, further delay is impossible.
If residents can't comfortably get to work or around town, how can we expect to grow either business or the visitor industry? A Biscayne Boulevard bottleneck intensifies as other clogging increases.
If governments at all levels don't focus on transportation, forget about growing jobs and the economy.
Focus is, in fact, the unifying message in all nine issues lingering from last year, and in some cases festering from long before.
Government needs to focus on what's vital, and voters must demand results, lest we reach 2014 with these issues still unresolved.
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