Miami Herald: New chapter for commission

Original link here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article4192584.html

Miami-Dade Commission’s Tuesday meeting marks a new beginning on a day that the board will deal with a variety of issues, from protection for transgender people to body cameras for police. There will be one new face, introduced at its previous meeting, and familiar faces taking on leadership roles.

Last week, the commission made dais history when it unanimously elected its new chairman. They picked Jean Monestime, 51, the first Haitian-born commissioner ever elected and now the first to lead the 13-member board for the next two years. We congratulate Commissioner Monestime, who takes over Jan. 1.

His is one more Miami-Dade immigrant success story. He came to South Florida alone when he was 17 and went from washing floors at a doughnut shop to running his own real-estate business.

As commission chairman, he will represent an area that has some of Miami-Dade County’s poorest districts — including parts of Little Haiti and Liberty City — in addition to North Miami, North Miami Beach and Biscayne Gardens. By his presence and vigilance, those neighborhoods will likely now not be forgotten in the big-picture conversation.

That Mr. Monestime is the first Haitian to lead the County Commission is a testament to the influence the county’s Haitian community has attained, its successful integration into the ethnic mosaic and culture that is our community.

After being elected, he promised to “allow our diversity to strengthen our community instead of divide us.”

Much remains to be done in this area, but it is clear that South Florida is overcoming some of the painful divisions of the past to become a cosmopolitan metropolis. It could be a model for cities in the 21 century. All this makes us more open to trade and globalization, which equal progress for all residents.

Joining Mr. Monestime in a leadership role is Esteban Bovo Jr., a Cuban American whose father is a Bay of Pigs vet. Mr. Bovo, who represents the areas of Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North, is now vice-chairman.

And a new face has joined the commission: Daniella Levine Cava, who defeated Lynda Bell and claimed her South Miami-Dade seat, will begin her work in earnest on Tuesday. Ms. Levine Cava, who is filling one of the historically, so-called “Anglo seats” on the commission, is a welcome change. She is fluent in Spanish and well-versed in the struggles of the county’s poorest residents. She should bring a new, forceful voice to the commission.

Though commission positions are nonpartisan, the last Democrat to lead the commission, Dennis Moss, ended his chairmanship in 2010. Currently, six commissioners are Democrats, six are Republicans and one is independent.

We give a tip of the hat to Rebeca Sosa, who is ending her stint as chair. She did an excellent job as the commission leader, seeking harmony and bringing decorum and order to board meetings, which in the past had lapsed into late-night imbroglios.

Ms. Sosa led with a firm but friendly hand. She was the epitome of kindness to even the most troublesome public speaker who came in front of the commission. She was never anything but courteous and cognizant that the commission serves at the pleasure of the residents of Miami-Dade. Job well done, Ms. Sosa.

We hope the board will maintain her momentum and work effectively for the welfare and progress of this community — one of the most dynamic in the nation.