Miami in 2020 - Trains, politics, environment
Miami / Miami-Dade, Monroe Counties
- Miami Dade College: Miami Dade College is still without a leader after Eduardo Padrón stepped down in August after more than 20 years as president. The college’s board of trustees rejected three of the four final candidates presented by a search committee and voted in July to restart the search process. The failed initial search has led to mistrust from many stakeholders. Meanwhile, the board appointed retired provost and former MDC trustee Rolando Montoya interim president. The college, the second-largest in the nation, won the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
- Census 2020: In the 2010 Census, Miami-Dade’s completion rate was 72%, below the national average of 84%. This year, controversy over whether to ask Census respondents their citizenship and the citizenship of others in their households has increased concerns that the county’s population will be undercounted even though the attempt to add the question ultimately failed. At stake: Billions of dollars in population-based federal funding, as well as congressional seats. According to Miami-Dade Counts 2020, a coalition of funders and community groups, “every person not counted translates into $1,800 lost per year in federal funds.” The coalition is led by the Miami Foundation, which raises and distributes money to organizations around the community and is distributing $475,000 in grants to community and government organizations for Census-related outreach. Its work will complement the Miami-Dade County 2020 Census Task Force.
- Super Bowl: This year, Miami will host the Super Bowl for the 11th time, a record. Super Bowl LIV will be played at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes football teams. Both the Dolphins, who own the stadium, and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region, which is host to a long weekend of Super Bowl activities, have a lot to prove. It’s been 10 years since the National Football League held a Super Bowl in Miami, put off in large part because the roofless stadium got nearly an inch of rain during the 2007 game (although it made for sloppy conditions on the field, Prince gave a legendary halftime performance of “Purple Rain” in pouring rain). The Dolphins tried unsuccessfully to obtain government assistance to put a retractable roof on the stadium. Ultimately, the team acted on its own to install a canopy over more than half of the seats, and South Florida won hosting rights for the 2020 game. The Miami Super Bowl Host Committee’s top executive, Ray Martinez, is a law-enforcement veteran — current chief of security for Ultra Music Festival and a former Miami Beach chief of police and Miami assistant chief of police. His job: To oversee daily operations and preparations for Super Bowl LIV and make sure game day goes off without a hitch.
- Virgin Trains: The high-speed train connects downtown Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Miami-Dade is already working to add stations. Late in 2019, the county approved $76.7 million to fund a station connected to Aventura Mall at the county’s northern border. That station could open as early as 2020 or as late as 2022 and would move passengers from downtown Miami to Aventura in 15 minutes. The trip can take an hour or more by car during rush hour. The county is also in final negotiations for another new station, at PortMiami, where Virgin will also homeport its first cruise ship beginning this April. Virgin Trains says adding the two Miami stations, plus one in Boca Raton, could more than double its annual ridership by adding another 2 million passengers.
- Tri-Rail: Tri-Rail and local governments spent about $70 million to build a platform for Tri-Rail at Virgin Trains’ station in downtown Miami. But the Tri-Rail trains, which run through Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, still haven’t been able to begin service there. Virgin says Tri-Rail service into the downtown station should start this year but has been delayed while safety upgrades are implemented and approved.
- Politics: Term limits mean Miami-Dade County’s current mayor, Carlos Gimenez, can’t run again, and four current county commissioners (from the 13-member commission), a former commissioner and a former county mayor have already filed to run for mayor in this year’s election. The four current commissioners in the race are Jean Monestime, the commission’s first Haitian-American chairman; former city of Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez; Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr.; and Daniella Levine Cava. Former county Mayor Alex Penelas and former county commissioner Juan Zapata are also running, as are several other candidates.
- Environment: This past fall, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary proposed rules that will increase restrictions on fishing and other activities in the 2,900-square-nautical-mile preserve. The goal of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Restoration Blueprint is to improve the health of coral reefs, seagrass, archaeology sites and waters in the sanctuary. But many residents and local business owners, including Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Bill Kelly, say the new restrictions go too far and that restricting access and closing additional areas will have severe negative consequences for Keys industries such as fishing and diving. Comments will continue through the end of this month.