Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III wears Superman cufflinks; they are not so much a fashion statement but a declaration of what he wants to do with Miami-Dade’s third-largest city: Protect it.
In his State of the City address last week, the mayor, who was elected in 2012, flexed his muscle and proudly spoke of a city with a plan for growth, forging concrete goals and a mission to attract substantial businesses and companies that will generate tax revenues and development along the weary Northwest 27th Avenue corridor.
Such a renaissance is a hard sell for any community, but in a confident tone Mr. Gilbert conveyed that pulling off that hat trick will improve the quality of life for the largest predominantly black city in the state. It’s good to think big.
Tuesday, Mr. Gilbert might see a significant piece of his plan come to life. That’s when the NFL could —and most definitely should — announce that the 2019, 2020 or 2021 Super Bowl will be played in Miami Gardens, home of the stadium where the Miami Dolphins play.
At the crowded State of the City event under a tent outside City Hall, Mr. Gilbert pitched a message that Miami Gardens will be unleashing its untapped power. As he recently told the Editorial Board, he wants residents, some shell-shocked from the violence that befell parts of the city last year, to believe: We, too, can prosper.
There’s a new police chief, and the city is hiring more officers; there are more law-enforcement higher-ups who grew up in the neighborhood. New initiatives, such as Coffee with a Cop and the Peace in the Gardens festival, work to bridge the gap between police and the community.
And while homicides remain an issue in the city, with 18 in 2015 and five as of this past weekend, there has been a reduction in aggravated assaults and burglaries.
But much of the mayor’s speech centered on the 13-year-old city’s manifest destiny and its moves to assert its governing authority, claiming a greater say in its economic development and overall future.
Toward that goal, Mayor Gilbert is tapping on the shoulder of the city’s biggest taxpaying tenant, the Dolphins’ stadium and team owner, to become more involved in the city and not just a Sunday-afternoon presence.
The accepted routine is that on Sundays, during football season, thousands of fans stream into the city, but spend few dollars at area businesses before zooming out as quickly as they came.
On Aug. 30, Miami Gardens residents will vote on a city charter change that would give the city and Miami-Dade joint control over building and zoning at the stadium and surrounding property. The mayor rightly thinks that as the stadium’s fortunes go, so do those of Miami Gardens.
Mr. Gilbert came bearing good news. However, his no-nonsense governance style at times has rubbed some the wrong way, drawing two challengers as he face reelection this year. He says the city’s accomplishments ultimately will silence critics.
Mr. Gilbert discussed the coming Wawa convenience store and plans to bring in stores such as Marshalls and Burlington Coat Factory at the Carol Mart shopping plaza, 18200 NW 27th Ave. The city also plans to develop a multi-use performing arts and town center near City Hall to host events, concerts and plays.
“We need a place where we can shop, eat, entertain and recreate,” the mayor said in his speech. His vision is on target. That, indeed, should be a reality for Miami Gardens.