What Did You Do in the War on Poverty?

Always fighting the good fight, Miami's politicians have been tireless in assisting the city's poor huddled masses

image Tomas Regalado
City Commissioner
1997 to present
I am proposing a tax abatement for businesses, which will drastically decrease unemployment in the city. I was able to extend the area where we can spend federal money to address community development. In the past we could only use federal dollars in East Little Havana and Allapattah to redo store façades for the various small-business people. I was able to extend it to all the District 4 area, including the Flagler Street and SW Eighth Street corridors. What we have done is help fix the façades of 89 small businesses that, in turn, were able to hire at least one new employee. The other thing I have been able to do is use the city's law-enforcement trust fund to pay for summer camps and to pay for transportation, movies, and lunches for inner-city children. This was never done before. I am very proud of that. Not that I claim I have eliminated poverty, but I have done a little.

image Art Teele
City Commissioner
1997 to present
I've focused on three things: jobs, jobs, and more jobs. It's not that complicated, really. The problem in Liberty City and Little Haiti is that we don't have black-owned businesses or businesses that hire from within the community. As a city commissioner I've worked to create opportunities and incentives to create black-owned businesses and require general contractors to hire from within the community. I've also provided direct support through the Model City Revitalization Trust, a $100 million project to build 1000 affordable homes. The contractors have to hire from within the affected area. That is how we deal with poverty: Create jobs. Overtown has the highest rate of unemployment. We have to provide incentives and provide support for existing businesses to expand and new businesses to come in. We are looking at a bowling alley. The owner could become the largest employer in Overtown. He's talking about creating 30 jobs. We worked with Sax on the Beach, a business in front of Margaret Pace Park, to ease the permitting for their water-and-sewer service. In exchange we asked them to hire from within the community, and they have lived up to the agreement. Then there is Jackson Soul Food. If they complete their expansion, they will double their twelve-person work force. In Overtown a business with eight or ten employees is a big operation. The key is to get more black-owned businesses and provide incentives to all businesses that provide jobs in a targeted area. I think I've done that successfully.

image Joe Sanchez
City Commissioner
1998 to present
The City of Miami is paying for the sins of the past. But we are making progress. Just look at all the development in the city. Any new development provides jobs. And it all boils down to j-o-b-s. I was the first commissioner to hold a development summit. I was very proud of that. We became development-friendly, which we weren't. No one wanted to come here. People thought we were all crooks or were inept or that we couldn't get anything done. Property values in the city have increased an average of thirteen percent. That tells you the city is making progress. The other thing I am proud of is the redevelopment and revitalization of Calle Ocho with Viernes Culturales. My goal is to make SW Eighth Street one of our busiest corridors. Take a walk between SW Fourteenth Avenue and Seventeenth Avenue and look at all the new businesses -- like Little Havana-to-Go, Alfaro's, 911 Embroidery, and ArtCuba -- that have revitalized Eighth Street and created new employment. Ten years from now we are not going to be the poorest city in the nation because we are making progress. We still have a lot of work to do. It's not easy. But we can't do any worse than what's been done in the past.

image Johnny Winton
City Commissioner
1999 to present
How the hell am I going to take credit for stuff without sounding self-serving? Well, one of the first things I did dealt with specific revitalization efforts, one in West Coconut Grove, one in Wynwood, and one in Little Haiti. The principal focus was about reclaiming neighborhoods and creating a much better quality of life. The first thing was to go after the bad guys -- principally the drug dealers. We went after them with a vengeance. Then we went after the other bad guys, the absentee landlords who allow drug dealers to set up shop in their buildings. We took two or three streets at a time and did in-depth analyses of every single property in that zone: which ones were good, which ones were bad, which ones were owner-occupied, vacant, commercial, single-family -- a complete inventory. Those properties with serious violations, we went after them. The other thing I'm working on is a long-term, comprehensive master plan so local government can focus on neighborhoods, where every dollar is spent as a building block to a total plan. We just completed the FEC railyard redevelopment plan, which includes some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, a big chunk of Overtown, Wynwood, Lemon City, and Little Haiti. The plan will really help improve the quality of life and livability of these neighborhoods and bring scarce government money to the table. When the next census rolls around, Miami will no longer be the poorest city. Government is doing a much better job.

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