The strength of America is that we are a pluralistic society. Our national motto says it all: E pluribus unum — Out of many, one. Hence, the notion that the planning of our transportation infrastructure would be improved, if only we had less representation on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is contrary to the founding principles of this great nation and an unfortunate distraction.
Rather than debating the size of the MPO, we need to determine our priorities and move forward, considering our diversity a strength. To advance solutions toward our traffic congestion, the MPO needs to formulate a new vision for the future of transportation in our region.
Do we want to continue to invest in the roadway-expansion strategies of the last several decades, or are we interested in crafting a mobility system attuned to the technology of our day? Do we seize this first-ever opportunity to select our own permanent executive director, or do we let it pass us by? Do we challenge the MPO toward greater cooperation between transportation planning and land-use planning throughout the region, or do we bicker over politically correct and solutionless sound bites?
A new vision statement might call for “an affordable and efficient multi-modal transportation system that offers accessible connectivity for the Greater Miami region.” The exact language of that vision statement needs to be a collective decision of the MPO board. Nevertheless, as the governing body, our vision must embody clear directives to the professional staff and advisers who formulate our work plans. Adopting a thoughtful new vision statement will signal the priorities of the MPO board.
The single most important governance issue confronting the MPO is the selection of a permanent executive director. This is the first time this body has had the chance to choose its own executive director. Historically, the county manager has appointed the director. This is a milestone decision for the MPO, and I am committed to getting it right.
We need to hire a professional who knows how to assemble and lead a team of transportation planning experts; an executive director who is comfortable engaging the citizenry and our public and private transportation stakeholders. Someone who is capable of opening the lines of communication with the development staff of our county and cities as well. Overall, we desire a great communicator.
After the Selection Committee interviews and screens the candidates, I will interview the finalists and submit my recommendation to the full MPO. Once a permanent executive director is on board, we will be able to make real progress. That unique opportunity cannot be overlooked.
My first charge to the new executive director will be to establish a close working relationship with the county and municipal building officials and planners in order to ensure that the MPO’s spending decisions are based on the best available information. To effectively plan, we need to better anticipate shifting demographic patterns, including more precise information about emerging employment centers and adjacent housing for workers.
The mixed-use development trend within the downtown business district is great, but most office workers can’t afford to live in the residential units near their places of work. I expect the new executive director to have in-depth knowledge of urban planning and recommend smart choices to the 23 members of the MPO board.
Jean Monestime is chair of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners and also chairs the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).