Last month's elections in Miami Beach were a clear call for change. Four incumbents and past office holders were defeated at the polls in favor flesh blood. But that notably left Miami Beach, a city with a 53 percent Hispanic majority population, without a single elected Hispanic civil servant in city hall.
In an editorial, the Miami Herald strongly called on new Mayor Philip Levine to institute something that sounded awfully close to an informal ethnic quotas while making appointments to city boards. Miami Today however replied with their own editorial slamming the suggestion.
But there is no doubt that the absence of Hispanics at City Hall -- with the notable exception of City Manager Jimmy Morales -- creates a genuine problem.
The absence of diversity fuels feelings of alienation and division, which Mr. Levine and the commission would be wise to nip in the bud. They should reach out to the Hispanic community on the Beach early on, appointing Hispanics to positions on prominent local boards in numbers that reflect the city's diversity, and dealing with issues that matter to Hispanics like the chronic lack of affordable housing.
Though, Miami Today replied with an editorial of its own criticizing the suggestion:
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We believe it truly shows maturity that voters can elect officials on a basis other than ethnicity. We felt that way when our nation elected a president of color that surely did not match the majority, and we'd have felt that way in Miami Beach if we'd even noticed.
It has also been a long time, thankfully, since many of us saw ethnicity as a criterion. We might choose the right or wrong leaders, but we have come a long way since language, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status was the primary qualifier for, or barrier to, most meaningful jobs.
Watchers of politics in Miami-Dade are used to analyzing with a heavy consideration on race. A city hall without a single elected official of color is certainly, well, odd in such a diverse city even if this election's results carried a strong anti-incumbancy message.
But as it stands now Miami Beach certainly isn't quite lacking in high-profile Hispanic civil servants. City Manager Jimmy Morales, Police Chief Raymond Martinez, Fire Chief Javier Otero, Building Director Mariano Fernandez, City Clerk Rafael E. Granado, and Code Compliance director Robert Santos-Alborná, amongst others, are Hispanic. If several of those officials were replaced by non-Hispanic candidates under newly elected mayor Philip Levine's watch that may be a genuine cause for concern. And certainly city hall's appointments should reflect the city's diversity (and beyond just ethnic and racial lines), but calling for those appointments to be made in direct proportion to the city's official census demographics does seem outdated.