MIAMI – Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez delivered his seventh State of the County address bilingually, sharing achievements and framing challenges at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium filled with elected officials, department heads and frequent county lobbyists.
The event started with a prepared video about the cultural growth of the county.
Gimenez spoke for about an hour. Here are some of the highlights:
- The mayor reported Miami-Dade's unemployment rate has dropped more than a percentage point in the last year to 4.4 percent.
- He highlighted lessons learned from Hurricane Irma last fall, from storm preparation and the largest evacuation in county history, to post-storm debris clearing and recovery efforts for the most vulnerable populations.
- Gimenez gave verbal high-fives to the financial turnaround of Jackson Health System, the county's publicly funded hospital, that had struggled financially in the economic downturn.
- The mayor acknowledged the county's public transportation operations must do better if the county is to thrive and grow. He reported 95 percent of county residents use personal vehicles to commute, the justification for the county long-term transportation plan to focus on road improvements and technologies.
The county is currently deploying its Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit plan, known by its acronym SMART, identifying six mass transit corridors to develop. He urged the 13 county commissioners, whose consituents' priorities sometimes conflict, to focus on the plan as a whole.
"We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," Gimenez said.
The mayor supports new bus technologies, extending the Dolphin Expressway as part of the plan. He said the Transportation and Public Works Department is focused on improving rail services, and that by March, all new cars will be operating on the 25 miles of Metrorail.
Gimenez recognized several Miami-Dade police officers in the audience who recently survived dangerous criminal situations. He announced support for the Miami-Dade Police Department, with whose union he has often been at odds.
The department swore in 144 new officers in 2017 and has a budget to hire 65 more this year.
Outside the auditorium, a small group of immigration advocates protested the mayor's recent decision to resume complying with federal immigration detainers. The Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department had stopped doing so for financial reasons for the previous four years.