How many City of Miami officials can you fit in a bus stop? Well, four – because that’s how many people Miami’s much-touted brand-new bus stops accommodate at one time. That meant that Miami mayor Manny Diaz, City Manager Pedro Hernandez and City Commissioners Joe Sanchez, Angel Gonzalez, and Michelle Spence-Jones had to shuffle a bit to try and grab the spotlight today.
The event was a ribbon cutting for the first of the city’s new bus shelters, supposed to number 600 over the next three years, and which prove beyond any doubt that Miami is a cutting-edge town: the new facilities are just like regular benches (except partitioned into a whopping four seats), but unlike regular bus benches, they are enclosed in a tiny glass booth topped with a tiny glass roof, so the rain can’t get you.
Just think of it: a bus stop with a roof – what’ll they think of next? Trees with leaves on them?
The bench chosen to inaugurate the good times sits right outside the Veterans Association Hospital – most of the people who park their rears on it are veterans. New Times asked Commissioner Gonzalez – in whose district the VA and its new shelter fall - why it took so long for the City to arrange some shade for the vets. “I’ve been working on this for the last four years,” he said, nodding gravely. “First, we started working on the bus benches, then finally arranged with the county to do these bus shelters.”
Benches and Shelters? In just four years? Miami’s come a long way.
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But Charles Buford, the charismatic founder of ‘Make a Wish Veterans,’ a nonprofit of his own creation which helps vets, had a slightly different version of how the bench outside the VA got its roof. Buford, a vet himself, and who spends time at the VA regularly, says that he first went to Miami-Dade Transit with the request for bus shelters outside the building; Transit directed him to Gonzalez, who in turn brought the idea to the City.
In any case, City officials were officially gung-ho about the new shelter today – they prayed in front of it, had their pictures taken in front of it, and made speeches in front of it.
“I’m going to try and keep this short,” said Mayor Diaz. “Because I don’t think we can all fit under this shelter.”
No, we couldn’t. Not even close. --Isaiah Thompson