Along the way, he writes, Diaz realized that economic prosperity was inseparable from environmental sustainability, which comprises mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods of the type required under Miami 21 — which he considers his crowning achievement — and convenient, local transit options like trolleys.
It’s a familiar story to Miamians, though the book only glancingly refers to the controversy generated by Diaz’s backing of mega-projects like the PortMiami tunnel and the Miami Marlins stadium.
But it also details initiatives to fight poverty, crime and even litter that received less publicity but that Diaz writes were just as significant. Those included programs to foster financial literacy among the poor and another, emulated around the country, that helped thousands of low-income families claim federal tax credits to which they were entitled but which they never filed for.
Indirectly, the book serves also as a reminder that Diaz, who served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and after leaving office taught a semester at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, often enjoyed a more favorable profile outside Miami than at home. The book is at the top of Amazon’s best-seller list in the category of regional politics and planning.
In his foreword, Bloomberg praises Diaz for the “entrepreneurial spirit’’ of his administration and says he “made Miami a national leader on urban issues.’’
“It will influence cities around the country and the world,’’ Bloomberg writes.
Above all, though, Diaz said his book is intended as a call for non-partisan pragmatism in politics and renewed investment in U.S. cities, the country’s economic engines, as a way to rebuild the economy to compete on a global scale.
While politicians in Washington, D.C. bicker over cultural wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion and cut back funding to cities, Diaz writes, it’s mayors who get things done, because they have to.
“Despite the issues we face, we can’t get people in Washington to make some important decisions,’’ Diaz said in an interview, rattling off examples: “They refuse to do something about the availability of automatic weapons. But we’re the ones who have to go out at 2 a.m. and deal with someone shot up with an AK-47.
“To me, the importance of this book is not Miami per se. Miami is the brand. But unless you have a keen interest in Miami, who’s going to read it? But the example of Miami serves to support the premise, which is that politics in America has to change.’’