The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

A visionary alliance

 

OUR OPINION: South Florida mayors can help region prosper by joining forces

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

They get it, they really get it. There is strength in speaking with one voice in Tallahassee, and beyond — and sunshine and palm trees will only take this region so far. The mayors of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have joined forces to help bring South Florida a regional vision for effective transportation; address the effects of climate change, continue to protect the Everglades and keep voting polls accessible.

The Editorial Board has put forth its vision for the region at the beginning of each year under the call to action “Creating a New South Florida.” Carlos Gimenez, Kristin Jacobs and Steven Abrams — the elected leaders of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, respectively — have taken a huge step toward doing just that.

The alliance, conceived late last year by Mr. Abrams, stands on the foundation of a compact approved by each county’s commission and signed by each mayor.

It lays out the areas over which they will come together: regional transportation, climate change, Everglades restoration, election reform and shifting costs of state corrections.

Important issues all. Economic development is one crucial area that’s mentioned in the compact but not addressed at length. It, too, must be in the alliance’s laser-like focus. The mayors are savvy enough to acknowledge that areas of competition remain — seaports, for instance. But they also understand that the economic health of one South Florida county, as with hurricanes, beach erosion and traffic congestion, doesn’t stop at the county line.

The region can invest more in strategic initiatives to lure more high-tech, bio-tech and international banking. The employees they bring with them, or better yet, hire from South Florida communities, will be major contributors to the region’s tax base.

At the same time, each county must also be concerned with giving low-income and working-class residents a boost as it lobbies Tallahassee to pay heed. Effective fair-wage and wage-theft laws, for instance, are always endangered. Cuts to childcare and senior services can have devastating impacts on families struggling to keep their heads above water.

The three mayors already have one in the win column. They took their concerns over Florida’s debacle of a presidential election last year, stood as one, along with other leaders, pushed for and won voting reforms in Tallahassee that will prevent the confusion and interminable lines at the polls that rendered Florida’s vote irrelevant in the 2012 presidential election.

Together, these three South Florida counties boast a population of almost 6 million people. But legislative muscle has moved to the north, specifically the I-4 corridor, muting — and sometimes hostile to — the quality-of-life concerns here. The mayors’ alliance opens the opportunity to work with the members of South Florida’s legislative delegations in advance of each session in Tallahassee, making their goals clear and further enhancing consensus rather than fomenting competition.

This should also make it easier to call state officials to account — from the governor on down — for giving South Florida short shrift. Ms. Jacobs points to the revenue that pours in from the toll lanes on I-95. She says that South Florida is a “cash cow” for the state, yet is not seeing a fair return for what the region — its visitors and residents, really — contribute.

The mayors’ alliance is a smart start for turning up the volume of South Florida’s voice in Tallahassee.

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