US Representative Tom Tancredo and Dario Moreno squared off on the Sat editorial page of the Miami Herald, “Pro/Con”, relating to Tancredo's controversial statement that Miami is a “third world country”.
Tancredo and Moreno both have points.
Moreno is right: Miami is a vibrant and exotic mix of cultures made richer by the bleeding of Central and South America into this corner of continental North America. For all the frustrations and pressures, South Floridians have learned to live together, better, than many other places where Hispanic populations are growing rapidly—in states like Colorado.
But every time we go to the “beach” off Rickenbacker Causeway—one of the only places in the entire county that 2.4 million residents can swim without paying a parking fee—we are reminded of cities in Latin and South America that take better care of its beaches than Miami.
Miami is where the world’s wealthiest crowd at private entries to the ocean and the nation’s poorest live near the freeways.
Public officials in Miami, like our city and county commissioners, recoil from Tancredo’s comments. But they also deny their own responsibility for problems that have only metastasized on their watch: the county housing agency scandal wrapping like a neat bow around the affordable housing crisis.
In the Strong Mayor vote, next week, voters will have a chance to address the serial scandals and its cause: an unreformable majority of the county commission.
Debbie Cenziper writes in the Miami Herald’s “House of Lies”, “In the past five years, the Miami-Dade Housing Agency squandered millions of dollars on failed projects, pet programs and insider deals even as thousands of families languished in rotting and unsafe homes.” http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/15102490.htm
In those five years, Miami real estate inflated into one of the bubbliest markets in the nation and local elected officials followed in a rapt attention.
County commissioners—for instance, from single member African American districts that nominally “protect” minority representation—spent their political capital seeking ways to hook up with big developers of production housing in outlying areas and no leader at any level stepped in to offer mediation or leadership. Take the Barbara Jordan "inclusionary housing ordinance", for example--written by Lennar and lobbyists for the production home builders.
Under their watch, bottom feeders overran the county housing agency.
Meanwhile, people are taking matters into their own hands, the way they do in Third World countries when they are not stopped by policemen on street corners with machine guns.
There is Max Rameau and Umoja Village in Miam’s Liberty City: the corner lot, once the location of several public housing facilities and littered with trash is the home of a growing shantytown for the area’s homeless and impoverished residents. In the midst of local political scandals, locals have empowered themselves to create housing that government has not.
“Local political leaders continue to remain stagnant in their abilities to help the city’s working class communities of color, so these communities have taken it upon themselves to combat the hardship that face them on a daily basis.”
Yes. Mr. Rameau is onto something: if government can’t take care of its poorest, give the poorest more tools to take care of themselves.
That’s what happens in Third World countries, isn’t it?
In scattered and abandoned lots of the poorest districts, local government should let 1000 flowers bloom with Victory Gardens for the poor to grow food in.
In targeted districts, local government should make it easier for individuals to build their own housing without having to jump through hoops of bureaucracy only big contractors know how or can afford to do.
Maintain only the most basic code standards, but let individuals take care of themselves because government won’t and cannot take care of them. Keep the speculators at bay.
Miami elected officials are embarassed by Umoja Village. They are crossing their fingers it will all go away, and that glory days for real estate markets are still ahead.
It’s not going to happen. All those condos going up, are going to be empty for a very long time. For tract housing developers, there is no bottom in sight. It is hard chasing a rainbow, but Miami’s elected leaders are about to find out it is even harder accommodating faceless vulture funds and unknown investors who are going to be picking at empty lots and empty buildings off-loaded by their campaign contributors.
And if voters are wise, they will vote next week for an executive mayor to begin addressing the institutionalized problems of local government that contribute to the Tancredo effect.