Miami’s Community Newspapers: “Better prepared, more effective response, faster recovery”

Resilience is all about preparation, response, and recovery from outside “shocks and stresses.” We can look to our countywide experience with Hurricane Irma to see opportunities to improve – starting with this year’s budget.

It is clear that we have improved upon our ability to respond, but we still have a lot of work to do to prepare our community for inevitable hurricanes and other potential “shocks.” We were quite fortunate that the storm’s winds were at a minimal hurricane strength in Miami-Dade, yet nearly everyone lost power, roads became impassible for days, and communications systems were rendered useless when we needed them the most. While heroic efforts are still underway to restore our power grid and road network, Irma laid bare our continued vulnerability to these inevitable events.

I’m especially concerned about how dangerously under-prepared and ill-equipped the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our community were to handle this storm. We absolutely need to insist on greater protection for our most vulnerable residents.

I want to thank our amazing first responders – our police, our firefighters, our emergency managers for an outstanding job in helping our community through the recovery. Also, I am proud to recognize the many other critically important and often under-appreciated County employees that worked around the clock to keep our water safe and available, clear our roads and piles of debris, fix our traffic lights, provide a transit lifeline for so many trying to get to safety, and answer calls from more than a hundred thousand residents to guide them through a multitude of issues.

We should assess our priorities within this budget to see if they indeed align with the need to become more resilient as a community and as a government.

Does our budget put enough police and fire resources in the community? I have been advocating for more resources be dedicated to community policing and doing more to backfill the deficit in the number of County police.

Are we investing enough in our Transit system to not only provide a convenient alternative to driving, but provide a reliable connection to safety for our residents? A seamless rail connection from Florida City to the County line would be a strategic investment in greatly enhanced evacuation access for a huge proportion of our population. Unfortunately, the proposed budget cuts transit funding at the same time we’re working on a planned expansion. This is wrong, and I will continue to press to reverse the cuts to Metrorail that serves so many South Dade commuters.

Our solid waste system is overtaxed from years of cost-cutting and it shows. Illegal dumping has become a scourge throughout the County, but most troublingly in South Dade’s agricultural area. Illegally dumped waste exposed many homes and businesses to terrible risks during the storm. I will continue to fight for more aggressive illegal dumping enforcement while engaging our community in more resilient solutions to prevent and protect our property from such abuses.

I look forward to receiving input on our budget and to continue pressing for greater investment in community resilience in the years to come.