Miami mayor aims to move cities forward
This month, the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) will induct Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz as its new president. Since taking office in 2001, Diaz has worked to renew his community by developing affordable housing, promoting green buildings and revitalizing neighborhoods. American City & County talked with Diaz about his goals for the upcoming year, the importance of investing in cities and how he has reinvented Miami.
To listen to an audio recording of the complete interivew, visit the American City & County Podcast page.
Q: What are some of the most critical issues facing cities?
A: One of the things I worry about most is the ability of cities to remain competitive and also the ability of this country to remain competitive in this new economic era. Clearly, cities are the economic engine of the United States. Our children are no longer competing with kids in other cities in Florida or even other cities in the United States. They’re competing with kids in New Delhi, Shanghai, Rio, Madrid and a number of other places. So, if we don’t begin to think that way, then our prominence economically [will] not be the same as [it has been].
Q: Are there any issues that Miami is facing that you would like to bring to the attention of USCM?
A: Cities have taken the lead [with environmental issues] in this country. But, we sure would love to have Washington partner with us, and we’re beginning to see some signs of that.
We’ve been trying to promote reinstatement of crime fighting programs like the COPS [Community Oriented Policing Services] program that has been essentially completely defunded for the last few years; a program [that] in the 1990s brought the crime rate down just about everywhere in America by putting more police on the streets.
We [need to] make the investments that are necessary to make sure [that we modernize] our infrastructure, whether it’s our transit, our roads or our bridges. We [need] to make sure that we continue to create jobs, keep our streets safe, fight global warming and do all the things we want for our children. But, we need partnerships, and probably the most critical partnership of all is one with the federal government.
Q: In your 2008 State of the City address, you said that cities must continue to reinvent themselves. Why is that important?
A: [Miami] went from an 11 percent unemployment rate to somewhere between 4 and 5 percent. [We are] also promoting the arts in our community. Needs change, people change and the world changes, and cities should be viewed no differently than a business. In business, you have to constantly be reinventing yourself. You have to constantly [test] your product. [Cities] need to stay ahead of the game. The day when you can just sit back and people will come to you doesn’t exist anymore. You have to market yourself and let people know that this is a great place to live and work.