New Year's Revolution

If you had your way, what single adjustment would you make to enhance the experience of living in South Florida?

Margot Ammidown
Miami editor of Metropolitan Home magazine, former director of the Metro-Dade Historic Preservation Division

Great cities have a grand scale to their public land plans, but I think people in Dade have lost sight of the role of public parks. Because of the fact that we've had such negligent government and the parks have been allowed to deteriorate, at least downtown in Miami, they're no longer appealing places to sit and eat lunch. If I had my way, I would create a park that serves as a civic center, a public forum even for the mundane, a place where people mill around or get on soapboxes and make speeches. It would provide some cohesiveness to the city. Think of grand parks like Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London, the Tuileries in Paris. Or think of the zocalos in South American cities, which aren't so much green spaces as plazas, but they're still public areas that are accessible to public interests. They aren't closed and controlled by private interests.

Thelbert Johnakin
chairman of the Model City Crime Prevention and Task Force
I would make factories and businesses open up in the Model Cities community. In Liberty City here you can't buy a job! We're not going to stop crime, because there are too many people out of a job. Give companies an incentive, a tax break, whatever we have to do to bring the jobs in.

Joe Podgor
environmental activist
I would get the money out of elections. I would put a law together that would give everybody the same amount of money to run for office or perhaps establish a ceiling that's not too high. And pay the commissioners a living wage so you don't have to be on the take as an elected official. I'm not saying everyone in office is on the take, but we do seem to indict elected officials like clockwork. There's no pay, so it leaves the job open to people who are independently wealthy or on somebody else's payroll and who are obliged to dance to those people's tunes. I say give everybody a shake for election funds.

Anne Manning
executive director of Habitat for Humanity
I would find a way to make vacant properties available to nonprofit groups for development or housing. A lot of these properties have back taxes and liens, a quagmire of legal problems. We have the capacity for doing what most development groups don't want to do, which is to build one or two houses at a time. We can't buy those vacant properties because the property might be worth $10,000 and the man trying to sell has $30,000 of back taxes. If a property comes to a nonprofit, release the taxes! It would completely change the inner city.

Nil Lara
singer-songwriter
I wish there were more live venues and more appreciation of live music in Miami. So I'd open a live music venue in Miami and try to bring a lot of live culture from around the world. There are so many cool, up-and-coming things, and people should be exposed to them.

Roxcy Bolton
Coral Gables community activist
Like many people, I'm concerned about crime. Mayor Alex Penelas's crime plan for Dade County is promising and progressive, but we need an effective crime package that would encompass all the municipalities. Stop and think about it -- it's quite foolish to have only one area covered by this specific package. Think about it in terms of plague: If we had yellow fever here, the whole county would be quarantined. We need to have Penelas go back and call in the mayors and the city managers and the chiefs of police and put together a countywide crime package.

Edouard Duval-Carrie
artist
I would require that when there's a new apartment building, the state should move in and purchase some of the units for low-income residents, even if it's a luxury building. It would stop segregation. I think in Paris they have done that: You have apartment buildings in Paris that are quite luxurious but you have a percentage that are owned by the city and allocated to low-income people.

Victor Diaz
attorney
I think we need to create an international world-class trade zone or exhibition center that would make Miami a marketplace for the world. We would need a large parcel of land where an exhibition hall could be set up. The Miami Arena is probably too small, but it's a good beginning. It would have interpreters, so that if someone from China wants to trade with Brazil, there would be someone who speaks both Mandarin and Portuguese. It has to have a public subsidy, but it could be operated by a private firm, like the Miami Beach Convention Center. Some companies could have permanent exhibition space there. For example, tractor manufacturers: South Americans wanting to buy tractors can come and know there are going to be six different exhibitors selling tractors. Builders in Iowa can come here and do business with five or six Honduran tile manufacturers. Probably the biggest model for this sort of thing is Florence and Venice during the Renaissance. More recently Hong Kong and Singapore have done the same thing. History's great cities have been built around trade centers, and Miami is perfectly suited for trade between the north and the south.

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