About 800 people gathered on the front terrace of the new Miami Gardens City Hall on Tuesday to hear Mayor Oliver Gilbert’s “State of the City” speech.
The focus of Gilbert’s speech was the $60 million general-obligation bond and the plans for its roll-out. Voters approved the bond through a mail-in election in April, and the City Council voted Wednesday to approve an ordinance allowing the city to go forward with borrowing the funds. Of the bond money, $10 million will be designated for crime prevention efforts like surveillance cameras and license plate readers.
Gilbert said with the bond money the city plans to build a state of the art community center that will have classes to teach children computer coding, culinary and hospitality skills, music production and gymnastics. He said he wants students in the community to know that they can aspire to be more than only athletes.
The mayor said these efforts will keep kids positively active in the community and will adversely affect crime rates. However, he said much of crime prevention lies on better parenting. He also said residents must take more of an active role in building up the youth and not just point the blame.
“There must be proposed solutions, we cannot afford anything else,” he said. “It’s not about what we do overnight, but what we do over many nights. ... The bond will solve problems and not just talk about them.”
Gilbert also discussed the city’s biggest event, Jazz in the Gardens. He said this past music festival was their highest grossing year and that as the events grows incidents do not.
The mayor also formally introduced City Manager Cameron Benson, who started in October, and Police Chief Stephen Johnson, who started in April. Gilbert also took that time to announce the department had just hired 11 new police recruits, eight of whom live in the city.
The ceremony, which took place at the new City Hall, 18605 NW 27th Ave. at 7 p.m. with local students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and 2011 Miss Miami Gardens second runner up, Sara Gracel, singing the national anthem.
About a dozen dignitaries came to witness the grand opening, including U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, Miami- Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, county Commissioner Barbara Jordan, state Sen. Senator Oscar Braynon and former Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson. Since Gilbert’s first State of the City address in 2013, the city has gone through several changes in leadership, opened the new city hall complex and passed the bond, the first in the city’s history.
After his speech, Gilbert presented Miami Gardens native and rap star Tramar Dillard, better known as Flo Rida, with a key to the city. He said Dillard is not only a big star but he’s out there on the parks with the students engaged with them.
In his acceptance speech, Dillard said it was a blessing to be there. He credited his mother for instilling in him the character to be a giver.
“You know I travel around the world and I’ve never got a chance to receive an award and give a speech, but like my mom always told me, God gives you double for your trouble,” Dillard said. “I love you guys, and God knows the love I have for the youth in this community.”
Resident Ilia Rivera was among the hundreds who came to see the new City Hall. She took a tour of the building and said it was bigger than what she expected.
“I personally love the new building it brings an up bringing to Miami Gardens,” Rivera said.
She has been going to Emmanuel Revival Church in Miami Gardens for over 15 years and said that she’s seen the transformation of the city.
“Just like the mayor said in his speech, we have more energy to work to together as businesses and as neighbors to make Miami Gardens more beautiful and safer.”