Miami-Dade cities, county, utilities must coordinate sewer upgrades

While walking through Wynwood a resident asked me about my past as a White House press correspondent. Prior to being mayor, I was a journalist in print, radio and TV. In 40 years as a journalist I had the pleasure of interviewing presidents, revolutionaries and world leaders from Angola to Nicaragua, from Moscow to Washington. I also served as a White House correspondent during the Reagan years and Bush 41.

“Who was your favorite president?” The resident asked.

“Ronald Regan,” I responded. “He always made an effort to establish common ground with everyone, including the press.” Today, Reagan’s legacy has been somewhat distorted; personally after dozens of hours spent with the actual man, Wikileaks or not, I maintain that one of his greatest attributes was that he always provided other leaders with a seat at the table.

Currently, Miami-Dade County is embarking on its largest infrastructure overhaul in decades, the upgrading and repair of our water and sewer system. This necessary project, which is mainly based on a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida, is expected to take about 15 years. However, amid the rush there has been an enormous oversight: There has been absolutely no discussion of how other capital projects at the state, county and city levels will be affected by this mammoth undertaking.

That is why Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the county’s Water and Sewer Department (WASA) should consider taking a page from Reagan’s book and allowing the input of municipal and private stakeholders. Specifically, the municipal mayors, managers, capital works directors, FPL and the telecommunication companies deserve a seat at the table. Together we can see where and — more important — if our capital projects intersect with the proposed overhaul, and in so doing ensure that this process is more efficient and less intrusive to our residents and business owners.

As a Miami city commissioner I saw on many occasions how the city paved streets and then, months later, WASA or a utility or a telecommunication company tore up the same street, then patched it up and moved on. Immediately afterwards we received calls from dozens of residents complaining about government waste and lack of foresight. They couldn’t understand why the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

Why was their new street a mess? We tried to explain that these were all different agencies with different goals. Honestly, our residents were right, it is frustrating. We need to work together to not just save resources but to maintain our residents’ confidence in government.

But this isn’t just about tearing up streets and sidewalks. From what little we know, for example, as part of the water and sewer overhaul plan, in residential homes the water main will be moved from the back yard to the front.

If this is the case, these improvements will trigger the need for a permit, and in many cases the permit will require an up-to-date survey. Every home will be visited by an inspector and every home will need a current survey.

This places the burden directly on residents who are not only paying for the improvements with higher water rates but now must also pay hundreds of dollars to a private surveyor.

Recently, at the invitation of Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, I sat at the table with Mayor Gimenez and other mayors to discuss school security and safety. As is usually the case, the logistics for these kinds of events are complicated and cannot be solved in one meeting. However, we all attended because of its importance.

Today I hope that WASA and Mayor Gimenez will consider a similar invitation so we can all weigh in on the water and sewer overhaul plan. This investment, which will be at least $4.25 billion, will be paid for by our generation, our children and our grandchildren. Therefore, we owe it to current and future residents to make this enormous infrastructure investment a collaborative effort.

I can only speak for myself and our city staff, but Mayor Gimenez, just say when, and we’ll be there.

Tomás Regalado is the mayor of Miami.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">GAZA DESTRUCTION:</span> Palestinians sit amid the rubble of a building this week while attending a “victory rally” organized by the military wing of Hamas.


    People of Gaza must be helped

    Now that the guns have fallen silent, leaders of Israel and Hamas are busy trying to convince their respective peoples that they emerged victorious from this 50-day war.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE:</span> The rise of a terrorist state in the Middle East may be the defining crisis of President Obama’s presidency.


    Obama too detached to lead?

    Having once served a president, I don’t begrudge any president a vacation. There is, in fact, no escape from this relentless job. A change of scenery does not involve a change in responsibilities, or even a release from the essence of the president’s routine.



    Up close and personal with migrant children in Dade school

    This year, on the first day of the academic calendar, I kicked off the day at Francis Tucker Elementary in Coconut Grove donating book bags and supplies to excited kindergartners in this historic and economically fragile neighborhood of the City of Miami.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category