Nearly 11 years ago, disaffected residents, disenfranchised business owners and a community of believers came together to form the city that is Miami Gardens. Bound by the idea that government closer to us would be more responsive, our founding mothers created a city of 110,000 people in an effort to make real a dream that had been too long deferred.
During the past decade, we have had successes and shortcomings; failures and triumphs, but through it all, the true spirit of Miami Gardens’ residents remains.
We are a working-class city with working-class problems and working-class dreams.
We are a city of business owners who are innovative and imaginative.
We are a city of houses of faith where we practice our spirituality.
We are a city of children that dream of a world ready for and accessible to them.
We are a city of senior citizens eager to engage new chapters and new adventures in lives that have been well lived.
We wake up every day, go to work and come home with the singular goal of enjoying our families and living our lives undisturbed. We are a city evolving into a community. Not separated by traditional neighborhood boundaries; we are no longer individually Bunche Park, Carol City, Rolling Oaks, Crestview, Andover or Lake Lucerne.
We are not homeowners or renters. We are not affluent or economically disenfranchised. We are one community that will together rise as we re-imagine how municipal services are delivered and how communal expectations are set.
The next 10 years will see Miami Gardens do extraordinary things. Soon, city services and information will be accessible through the Digital Garden (DG), a hand-held application that will be available on most mobile phones. The city will incorporate a housing authority to regulate our housing stock and ensure that, regardless of income or ownership, good neighborly standards are maintained. We will also engage potential developers through our Community Redevelopment Agency to help initiate economic development in the City of Miami Gardens.
Understanding and acknowledging that our destiny remains unfulfilled and challenges remain, our progress has not been insignificant. Since 2008 there has been a steady decrease in crime — 41 percent. This decrease includes a modest reduction in homicides from 2012 (25) to 2013 (23). While there has been movement, it has not come fast enough and has not gone far enough.
More must be done. This year we will hire an additional 16 officers with an emphasis placed on hiring residents because while community policing efforts are important, being policed by members of the community that have relationships and roots in the city is essential. Additionally, to augment our police force we will invest in technology that allows law enforcement to have an expanded presence throughout the city.
Though we are wholeheartedly pursuing these efforts, we understand that this is not a problem solved by police and enforcement alone. We must engage the youth of the community in a sincere and persistent way. To that end, the City Council is presenting voters with the city’s first general obligation bond. The bond will allow us to redevelop the city’s parks to provide activities beyond athletics, by including facilities that focus on science, art, and entertainment; as well as sports offerings that are not traditionally provided in urban settings like dance, boxing, martial arts, and tumbling.
This is important because what we have learned is that if we do not occupy our children’s time and their minds, the wrong elements will. If allowed to remain unengaged, the collection of children that occupy our neighborhoods will organize into groups; those groups will evolve into gangs; and those gangs, in an effort to hurt each other, will rob us of our innocence and ruin their own lives.
We can and will stop this. The difficult task of moving a community forward has often fallen to other people, this time the task is ours and we won’t fail. The trying times that we experience will not be our history. Our history will be how we endure and overcome them. We move forward.
Oliver Gilbert is mayor of Miami Gardens.