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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Miami's New Year's Resolution: Climb Out of Poverty and Dysfuntion Part 1

Here is a reintroduction of some of issues and possible solutions to Miami's persistent poverty. I have addressed many of these issues in previous posts but I think it is importnat that we not forget that Miami suffers from the smallest middle class, largest income disparity and highest rate of poverty of any large city in America. With the slowdown of real estate development we are in jeopardy of losing the little progress that we have had on the employment front.

Downtown educational corridor. Miami’s downtown is still way underutilized. The development that is going on is largely on the waterfront. Miami’s traditional downtown is still unattractive, dirty and disorderly. A great way to reinvigorate it would be to create an educational corridor. As it is U.M. is entirely isolated from the city it is named for and FIU continues to be a commuter school in a poverty stricken suburb. Nova, UF, and FAU all run programs in Miami-Dade so there is the chance that we may lure even more schools from outside. I hate to say it but I think that Ft. Lauderdale got the jump on us by creating an educational campus downtown for FIU, FAU and Nova beside the downtown BCC campus. What none of these schools have offered to this point is student housing. If housing and parking were offered it would be possible for downtown Miami to increase the amount of 24 hour activity and draw in investment from national retailers.

We rank dead last in graduation and Miami-Dade has more D and F schools than any county in the state. We also have the lowest proportion of any major city of those with a high school level education. After school educational programs, national recruitment of educators and higher pay for teachers; increased magnet schools; increased English language programs and adult diploma programs; childcare for adult students. If there is a problem with the FCAT the county can switch to the NABE and the PSAT and SAT as measuring tools. We should not blame testing for low performance in our schools. I also have no problem with the voucher program per se. The problem is that private schools in Florida are not sufficiently monitored for quality. With the state supreme court ruling this is no longer an issue.

Mixed use, mixed income and redevelopment of poor areas. I have never opposed redevelopment of Overtown, or Little Haiti, Wynwood, Little Havana or the West Grove. Poverty should never be concentrated. At the same time we have to have set asides for low income housing throughout the city. In other cities community development corporations have achieved remarkable success. Here, because of unchecked endemic corruption they have proven to be an unmitigated failure. We may need to work with nationally based agencies to develop housing set asides. Rent controlled units in new developments should also be explored though there are questions about the integrity of our government which is necessary for oversight of such programs.

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