BEST CITIZEN Miami 2004 - Mario Artecona
On a recent afternoon, a Miami-Dade County bureaucrat spotted Mario Artecona having lunch and said, "Well, if it isn't the revolutionary." Artecona responded with a chuckle: "That's what people start calling you when you take on the county commission." Not many ordinary citizens would have the opportunity (or the guts) to appear before the thirteen commissioners who lord over county government and tell them they are doing a piss-poor job of managing the area's primary economic engine, Miami International Airport. Artecona did just that. For years MIA has been the fiefdom of commissioners and their lobbyists, who've gorged themselves on fat airport contracts. The resulting business climate has become so noxious that even a company like Disney can't get in without knowing a friend of a friend of a commissioner. Earlier this year, when the commission refused to let voters decide whether to create an independent airport authority that would oversee MIA, Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum, threw down the gauntlet: He vowed to circumvent the politicians and launch a petition drive that would place the issue on this November's ballot. That made him Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of the county commission. In our eyes, it made him Miami-Dade's best citizen.