MIAMI - Last week, I delivered my first State of the County address. I focused on the state of our entire community, rather than just the state of county government.
The past few years have been challenging for all of us, but I am convinced better days lie ahead. I am building a County government we can afford and helps create jobs, so that we can reach the prosperous future that we all want for our families.
Changing the Direction of Government
In a few short months, we have put in motion the kinds of reforms that typically take years to happen, if they are even attempted. Leading by example, on day one I set the tone by slashing my own salary in half and cutting over $1 million from my budget. We are changing the direction of the County, by:
Securing needed concessions from our labor unions to avoid laying off hundreds of public safety officers and employees
- Cutting government waste, while maintaining vital services
- Slashing County departments from 42 to 26, and
- Creating the conditions for my top priority, job creation
By shaking up the County bureaucracy, we are saving taxpayers over $30 million this year, and more than $40 million next year. In the process, we're cutting government red tape and streamlining permitting to unleash the limitless potential of our job-creators.
Priority Number One: Jobs
My efforts to make County government more business friendly are no coincidence: job creation is my top priority for 2012. A restructured government is vital to that goal, starting with:
- An expedited permitting process
- Eliminating outdated regulations
- A streamlined, customer-friendly organization, and
- Less red tape
Going forward, to have the kind of economically viable community that we all want, we are partnering with friends in business and education.
I co-chair the Beacon Council's One Community One Goal initiative – it's a roadmap for our community's future economic growth. Our mission is to attract new industries to our community – life sciences, information technology, and creative design – while building on our successful trade, tourism and finance sectors. As the U.M. Life Science & Technology Park is already proving, we have the ability to support forward-thinking, technology-driven industries.
Building on these successes requires that we keep a strong focus on educating our children, preparing them for the future and ending the brain-drain of our most talented students leaving our community. One way to do that is connecting our students with our partners in the private and not-for-profit sectors through internships and hands-on training programs.
We are working in conjunction with South Florida Workforce to make $1.5 million available to college students from disadvantaged communities throughout Miami-Dade so that they can participate in paid internships with local businesses this summer.
In the meantime, there are already reasons for cautious optimism on the jobs front. Our two main economic engines – Miami International Airport and PortMiami – are thriving, setting records for passengers and freight, adding new cruise lines and spurring job-creating infrastructure projects which are preparing us for future growth.
Tourism is booming; agriculture continues to deliver; our arts & culture scene is flourishing; and small businesses, which are the backbone of our local economy, are holding steady.
Real County Reform
Reforming County government and restoring public trust is also vital to moving our community towards a brighter future. In November, our voters must have the opportunity to decide on:
- Eight-year term limits for Commissioners
- A petition process that removes obstacles for citizens, and
- Fully-independent ethics watchdogs to root out waste, fraud and corruption
We also need a new approach to protecting our environment and controlling urban sprawl that chokes our roadways, overwhelms our schools and diminishes our quality of life. Voters should consider a stricter standard for moving the Urban Development Boundary.
In sum, the state of Miami-Dade County is improving and there's reason for cautious optimism. When I took the oath of office last July, I pledged to restore trust in County government and lead us in a new direction. With the support of the County Commission, we are well on our way, but there is much critical work to be done in the months ahead.
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