Miami voters have their best opportunity yet to fortify the city as sea-level rise already makes its relentless approach. And not a moment too soon. Here’s what they’ll be asked on Election Day:
Shall the City issue General Obligation Bonds in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $400,000,000.00 with interest payable at or below the maximum rate allowed by law, payable from ad valorem taxes levied on all taxable property in the City, provided that the capital projects debt millage not exceed the current rate of 0.5935, to:
▪ Reduce flooding risks; improve stormwater infrastructure;
▪ Improve affordable housing, economic development, parks, cultural facilities, streets, and infrastructure;
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▪ Enhance public safety
One look at a photograph of Brickell Avenue, under water after — not a hurricane, but just a heavy rain — says that there’s only one answer: Yes. Miami, like other cities up and down Florida’s east coast, faces the inevitable result of sea-level rise. And while Miami Beach across the bay is making strides in addressing the inevitable, Miami lags in this regard — to its peril. A comprehensive federal government report, obtained last week by National Public Radio, says that sea level has risen seven to eight inches since 1900. Here’s the shocker, though: The report says that three of those eight inches occurred since 1993.
And Miami is one of the most expensive large cities in the country in which to live. Affordable housing barely exists in a city in which income inequality is rampant. And though crime has been on the downswing, there are still neighborhoods in which crime is an ever-present plague.
Mayor Tomás Regalado saw the light relatively late in his tenure.
Now, as he is poised to step down, he hopes to leave his successor with the resources to address, and stave off, the effects of sea-level rise.
As reported by Herald news partner WLRN radio, Miamians would see no property tax increase to fund this $400 million bond. That said, they wouldn’t see a decrease either, however, once old debt is retired.
Any big pot of money under government control, no matter how well-intentioned the goal and well-targeted the funds, brings caveats and concerns. There are no specific projects to evaluate, but there is a long and realistic list potential initiatives. The city will not be pulling projects out of thin air, and the urgency to address these issues justifies voters’ approval.
There is some long-term flexibility in addressing priorities that might change over time. That’s good. However, the proposal also brings with it the political haggling over who gets what, and which neighborhoods benefits and which get left out. We’ve seen this before. At the county level, the People’s Transportation Plan, a sales-tax increase approved by voters in 2002, has been ill-used over the years, with little expansion of promised transit lines.
It will be incumbent upon Miami’s new mayor and the commission to be rigorous in keeping this $400 million from being squandered, pocketed, or disappeared. It’s a lot to ask of politicians, but that’s the job they signed up for. And it’s incumbent upon residents to insist that the elected officials keep the city’s best interests foremost in their minds. There’s a lot of good that can result.
The Herald recommends a vote of FOR BONDS to authorize general obligation bonds for capital projects.