Let’s begin with a look on the bright side: Our early plea in 2014 was for cleaner government, especially at the local level. As it turned out, the year was largely free of the huge scandals that have rocked county and municipal governments in these parts for... well, for decades.
Of course, this is still South Florida. We can’t expect miracles. There were a few who didn’t get the word that today’s voters demand better behavior from public officials. At least four municipal mayors in Miami-Dade County faced criminal charges related to corruption: Steven Bateman of Homestead, Lucie Tondreau of North Miami, Manny Maroño of Sweetwater and Michael Pizzi of Miami Lakes.
Only Mr. Pizzi was acquitted by a jury, leaving him free to demand his job back.
For 2015, we’d like to see continued improvement. Can South Florida go an entire year without a single elected official being indicted and convicted of corruption?
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We won’t hold our breath, but it’s not out of the question. And while we’re at it, here are some other goals we’d like to see fulfilled in 2015 that are also feasible. (Hope springs eternal.)
COURTHOUSE: At the local level, our wish list includes a solution for the problem of the decaying downtown Miami-Dade County courthouse. Voters decided in 2014 that they didn’t want to shell out for a new building, but the current landmark needs either tens of millions of dollars in repairs — or replacement. Surely our wise county leaders can figure out a solution, can’t they?
JOBS: Last month, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced a new hiring program for the construction industry, highlighting a theme of shared prosperity. He called it “one of the most important initiatives in Miami-Dade County history.” Focusing on the issue is a good start, as is the vow by developers of the $1.7 billion Miami WorldCenter complex to pay higher wages and ensure that contractors hire up to one-third of their unskilled workers from Overtown and other low-income parts of the county. These are promising developments. But let’s see results.
TRAFFIC: The ire of drivers facing new traffic tolls in Miami-Dade is understandable, but the larger problem can’t be fixed by something as simple as adjusting the cost of toll roads. It’s about too many people, too many cars and not enough mass transit. There are no easy fixes here, but we’ll be focusing on traffic issues throughout 2015 because there is one thing every person in Miami-Dade County can probably agree on: Traffic congestion is horrible — and getting worse.
THEME PARK: The proposed $930-million amusement park in the pine rockland surrounding Zoo Miami would inject a desperately needed spark of economic activity into a deprived part of Miami-Dade. But the suggestion by a consultant to declare the forest-like area a slum is a nonstarter. It seems like a desperate effort to evade the environmental ramifications of the development rather than a serious proposal. County officials and developers should find a better way in 2015 to move this project forward.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There is much more we look forward to in 2015, including the continued remaking of downtown Miami and a controversial development on Watson Island. Holding the line on the Urban Development Boundary, restoring the Everglades and keeping our drinking-water supply safe remain perennial issues that will require intelligent discussion and leadership in the new year.