The City of Miami has a long history of funding expensive and important studies about its future direction as a municipality. This steady culture of study has started to make some urban advocates suspicious of its motives. Is the real purpose behind these studies to postpone a policy decision or to provide necessary informed facts to enable an intelligent and informed public policy? Anybody can question a hasty decision about quality urban planning as affecting generations to come, but most folks find it difficult to oppose a measured and expensive analysis by renowned experts to give advice on the future of our public realm. Yet some urbanists are starting to ask the real question: at what point are expensive municipal studies a ruse to avoid decision-making while crucial land use decisions are made in the interim? Are solidly-sounding municipal studies a way of gathering information and best-practices or are they a way of allowing short term decisions to proceed apace while municipal violins are fiddling? The facts are difficult to separate from the rhetoric.
Some recent examples come to mind: When crucial decisions about the Coconut Grove waterfront came up—let’s postpone until the waterfront Plan is finished? When essential development decisions came up during Miami’s development boom—let’s wait until we have Miami 21? When the City was exposed as having the worst park system in America, let’s hire well-known experts from Boston to do a Parks Plan? When Downtown seems overbuilt, let’s hire someone to do a grand downtown plan? When Bicentennial Parks looks over-run, let’s hire another firm to give us some approval to allow the Museums to take over the public realm? When Virginia Key and the Marine Stadium are threatened, let’s hire some more experts from Fort Lauderdale, and when that appears flawed, then lets hire some more experts…ad nauseam.
The City of Miami is a relatively small with a population of less than 400,000 people; it has few municipal functions, since it sits in a large metropolitan area governed by Miami Dade County, the State of Florida and the Federal Government. Yet because of its history and geographic location it commands amazing political power for one of the smallest major cities in America, and it commands its power largely by illusion. Without resources, a large poverty stricken population, and a tax adverse Commission and weak Mayor, it is mostly overwhelmed by its sad condition. The best it can muster is to fund studies, hope that the municipal anger subsides, and work on patchwork financial solutions. Municipal finance is a well-documented disaster. A tiny City in the national municipal firmament teeters on the brink, and a whole region of over three million people, greater Miami and South Florida, is at risk unless Miami can start to reach out for help. As they tell an addict, the first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Miami hasn’t found the courage to make that first step yet.
Welcome to the UEL.ORGThe UEL is a advocacy organization that supports environmentally responsible development and smart growth. We work to protect the public waterfront, public spaces, and historic and natural areas in Miami-Dade county. Our blog is a forum for discussion, and may not reflect the opinion of all board members. If you support smart growth and environmental protection please join us!
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