More local control, more money.
Those were the two main items on the wish-lists of five city mayors who convened Thursday at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s annual goals conference Thursday.
“First it was trees, then it was plastic straws,” said Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli, referring to proposals put forth in Tallahassee to restrict local control over those two items. “Tallahassee...I’m not going to say more about Tallahassee.”
Valdes-Fauli, along with the mayors of Doral, Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami Gardens, also bemoaned years of inaction in the face of mounting transportation woes. The panel was moderated by Miami Herald Business Editor Jane Wooldridge.
Affordability — a topic addressed by the ongoing Miami Herald project Priced out of Paradise — was a central topic.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez singled out the half-penny tax passed by Miami-Dade voters in 2002. The area SMART Plan, designed to build out more public transit lines, also has yet to materialize on the ground., he said
Transit, in turn, has impacted local affordability, noted the three mayors. Suarez said many who work in his city can now no longer afford to live in it. He said he is hoping to raise as much as half a billion dollars from community redevelopment association funds — and, if the agency will agree to do so, federal Housing and Urban Development matching grants.
Valdes-Fauli said his city is looking to North Gables as a site for more affordable housing. He also cited the $600 million Plaza Coral Gables development rising along U.S. 1 as a high-density project that will add new supply to the local market — though as currently designed, that development will contain more hotel units than residential ones.
Miami Beach’s Gelber and Miami’s Suarez both pointed to the success of their recent bond issues as a sign residents want to address the issues at hand.
And as for boosting local wages, Valdes-Fauli came back to the issue of control, noting the state had preempted the ability of municipalities like Miami Beach to raise the minimum wage.
For Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, given that most local residents work in Miami Beach or Miami, that should concern everyone living in South Florida.
“The rest of us in Dade County can’t exist if they’re not prospering,” he said.