This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable:
In your opinion, what areas should commissioners focus on as they iron out the 2018 county budget?
The commissioners should focus on providing the necessary services to meet the needs of the county, while being fiscally responsible to minimize or avoid a tax increase altogether. A tax increase will burden every homeowner in the county and impact the local economy. This requires that some tough decisions be made regarding spending for the greater good of the county residents.
Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder
Miami must decide if it wants to be a global center, or a provincial town. Public transportation is key to that, and needs to be supported. And, as South Florida’s premier provider of therapy to special needs children, I would be remiss without stressing we cannot forget those who rely on the government for help.
Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science
Allocating funds and developing a comprehensive plan to significantly improve the county’s infrastructure, affordable housing and education should be top priorities. It is always easier to address our short-term, immediate needs. However, we should be working on a 25-year plan and budget to make us a more sustainable community. We need a long-term vision to secure a stronger and healthier city for our children and grandchildren in terms of infrastructure, education, social services and land planning. Today, let’s start envisioning the plan for Miami 2050 and strive each year to make our city greater, not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come.
Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners
Transportation, transportation and transportation! The No. 1 complaint I hear about local government is the apparent inability to adequately address the increasingly dire state of transportation here in South Florida. A large part of the downtown Miami workforce relies on the Metrorail system to get to work. The system is not working. It now sometimes takes as much as 1 1/2 to 2 hours each way on Metrorail to get to and from downtown Miami from affordable suburbs due to breakdowns, crowded trains and inadequate scheduling. The Miami downtown business community cannot survive and prosper without the large workforce that commutes from affordable suburbs using Metrorail. There is no other viable form of transportation for a large part of the downtown Miami workforce that lives in these suburbs. For those who live closer to downtown Miami and drive to work, commute times are also dramatically increasing. Substantially greater resources should be committed on an urgent basis for modern systems to coordinate traffic signals and improve traffic flows.
Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen
K-12 education! Our schools should have enough money and resources to prepare our students for the real world. Our training in school really shapes the kind of business professional we will be in the future. Businesses need employees that can, at a minimum, communicate effectively! Without enough funds and resources going to education, we will all be impacted.
Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm
Education, hands down. I’ll keep beating this drum because our students deserve a higher quality education and more opportunities. Create a strong foundation and you can build anything. This is not only a moral issue. If we allow our community’s future workforce to wither, our community will wither, too.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Theirs is a difficult job as they plan for present needs and future requirements. Infrastructure and environmental issues need to be addressed. Also, they must ensure an updated disaster plan is developed.
Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health
In light of the recently concluded TRIM and budget hearings in Miami-Dade, it’s clear that a strong transportation system and a robust pool of available housing — at all economic levels — are two things the county must have in order to be considered a competitive candidate for new business. Amazon, for example, recently announced plans to establish its second headquarters in North America, bringing with it 50,000 high-paying jobs, thousands of construction and operational positions, and billions of dollars in additional investment to the surrounding communities. Direct access to mass transit and a range of housing options are at the top of the company’s requirement list.
James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County
Three areas high on my list are transportation and transportation infrastructure, economic and business development, and the county’s emergency management plan. It’s important to review the emergency management plan within a budget context to ensure it addresses what we learned from Hurricane Irma, what Houston learned from Hurricane Harvey, and what the first responders and citizens of Puerto Rico are, unfortunately, learning following Hurricane Maria.
Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition
Commissioners should focus on building a resilient community, improving our infrastructure and methods of communication to allow for energy and water resiliency as we continue to deal with these environmental disturbances. As a community, we should look to new development to grow our property taxes and start allocating more funds towards infrastructure improvements and rethinking the planning of our neighborhoods.
David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra
I spent several days assisting relief efforts after Hurricane Irma — handing out ice and supplies to those in need. I was surprised and saddened by the poor living conditions at many of the housing communities in places like the West Grove, Overtown, Allapattah and Liberty City. We need more code enforcement at privately owned properties, as well as capital improvements at county-owned housing communities. It’s up to our elected officials to ensure that our residents are living in adequate conditions that don’t pose a health risk.
Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina, and managing principal, Marina PARC
I have to admit I have not been monitoring the Miami-Dade County budget discussions because I reside in Broward County. However, I was glad to see that there was some focus on early childhood education. Research shows that a high quality early childhood education has a lifetime of benefits including narrowing, or even eliminating, achievement gaps.
Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College
Affordable housing needs to be the top priority for commissioners in 2018. Miami has been one of the hardest-hit cities in the nation by the current affordable housing crisis. Low-income individuals, families and seniors are not the only ones to suffer — we all take a hit. A shortage of affordable and workforce housing poses a tremendous obstacle to our continued ascension into a preeminent world city. It limits our ability to attract major businesses to the area that can create well-paying jobs. It eats into our budget for goods and services that help keep our local economy vibrant. The economic impact is quite extensive, so the 2018 budget needs to focus on much greater allocation of available resources to affordable and workforce housing.
Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group