Thursday, September 25, 2008

About the Troubling Economic Crisis

The events of the past few days have caused me great pause and consternation. Our nation is gripped in a financial crisis that at its worse could send us down a course that would rival the Great Depression.

And yet these days it seems we go from crisis to crisis – a war with no clear result or end, the housing and foreclosure crisis a few months ago, now we have a melt down on Wall Street.

Congress considers passing a plan to bail out an industry that should know better, an industry Congress had coddled, and will now subsidize.

Congress will then move on to the next debate – all without addressing the underlying conditions that got us here, and keep getting us here.

Why are markets failing? Why are the fundamentals of our economy not sound? Why do people feel worse today, and are more pessimistic about our future than at any other time in our history?

This is a time when Washington has lost its values----- lost its principles - lost its sense of purpose - It no longer invests in our cities, it no longer invests in our people.

Plain and simple, Washington has abandoned us.

Cuts to education, cuts to housing, health, public safety, youth programs, economic development, job training, arts, and infrastructure.

This comes at a time when people in America are suffering – when our nation needs the most.

Consider the following:

1 in every 6 children lives in poverty, with nearly half living in extreme poverty. Is poverty and economic opportunity an urban problem or an American problem?

The US economy has lost over 450,000 jobs so far this year - wages remain flat - gasoline is now over $4 a gallon - rising food prices, rising medical costs - hitting each and every one of us in the wallet.

Is our economy an urban problem or is it an American problem?

We know the answer - these are America’s problems – and yet cities have been left alone to deal with them.

Cities drive the national economy. And yet, when Mayors bring up the issues we all face – we get the same response.

We are told Mayors need to be fiscally responsible, that we need to do more with less, but there is not enough money to solve urban problems.

CDBG is funded at a little over 3.5 billion annually, and has been cut every year since I’ve been in office – We get a Water Bill passed over a veto, approximately $5 billion annually – this is what we spend on water! And remember the SCHIP crisis? How much resistance did the current administration put up to spending money to make sure uninsured children got health insurance?

And yet, this same administration proposes we spend $700 Billion to bail out Wall Street. We are supposed to entrust the bailout to the same regulators who allowed it to happen.

This isn’t monopoly money – Can any of you imagine what $700 billion dollars could do in America’s cities? Or even $350 billion?

Then we are told we MUST spend this money to save our economy, save our very way of life, but no one talks about the path that led us here. The financial crisis has been building up for some time – we know about the bad lending practices; irresponsible borrowing; irresponsible lending - No one bothered to look at underlying value until it was too late.

Meanwhile, mayors have been working on financial literacy, small business assistance, entrepreneurship, education – working with organizations like the ICIC to reinvigorate our inner cities –

We are arming people with the knowledge and tools necessary to make wise financial choices, to build credit worthiness, to accumulate wealth. And now the financial crisis may lead to a credit crisis – Whereas banks were too eager to lend, now they don’t lend at all.

It is time for Washington to end its partisan gridlock, end the pointless debates, and engage in some serious planning and leadership to address the issues we all face.

I’ve spent the last 2 months travelling throughout the nation as part of our Mayor’s March Across America – these are 5 cities, 5 forums.

They deal with crime and public safety to make our streets and neighborhoods safe for children and families. Poverty reduction and economic opportunity so that we can financially empower all Americans. Arts, culture, and tourism - stimulating an industry that creates jobs that cannot be outsourced - a generator of over 10 million jobs and $1 trillion in economic impact. Infrastructure investment - to repair and rebuild our nation’s resources, with every billion invested generating over 47,000 jobs that cannot be outsourced.

And our environment - again generating millions of jobs that cannot be outsourced, preserving our nation and planet for generations to come.

These forums will form the basis for what we will present to the next president as his urban agenda for the first 100 days.

The next president must understand that an investment in America’s cities, an investment in America’s people is an investment in America’s future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Updates from the Mayor's Green Commission

Today was a great day for the City of Miami and the Green Commission.

Back in 2006, when I created the Green Commission – a group of local experts and community enthusiasts that helps me create and implement sustainable environmental practices throughout the city – I knew that there were residents throughout Miami dedicated to innovative strategies to make ours a greener, cleaner, more beautiful city. At today’s meeting of the Green Commission, I had the opportunity to share with some of them the successes of our collaborative efforts.

In the past few months, we have passed the Green Fleet and Green Purchasing Ordinances, both of which support green industries and reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. From hybrid vehicles to locally procured and sustainably produced biofuels, from recycled products to Forest Stewardship Council certified paper – the City of Miami remains dedicated to environmentally responsible practices.

Members of the subcommittee on Climate Action were present to discuss the City of Miami Climate Action Plan, MiPLAN, which will be presented to the City Commission next week. The plan, which you can find here, outlines how the City of Miami is reducing our energy consumption and responding to the challenges of global warming.

The Bicycle Action Committee presented the most recent draft of the Bicycle Action Plan, which aims to promote bicycling throughout the city for recreation, commuting, and short trips. Members of the committee represent groups like the Green Mobility Network, Emerge Miami and Transit Miami.

Lastly, I am proud to announce that the Green Miami website is up and filled with information about the importance of trees in our City and how the Tree Master Plan is increasing our urban tree canopy.

I hope that you will visit the website and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Miami brings hope to hurricane victims - You can help, too.

The past few weeks have brought vast devastation to our Caribbean neighbors, as hurricanes Gustav and Ike and tropical storms Fay and Hanna have ripped through the region, leaving behind a wide path of destruction. The islands of Haiti, Cuba, Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos have been bombarded by one hurricane after another. The storms caused hundreds of deaths, millions of dollars in losses and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and in dire need of food, clothing and emergency assistance.
Although we have been spared so far this hurricane season, in Miami we are still painfully familiar with the devastating effects of hurricanes. We know from experience how difficult it is to recover from the destruction that hurricanes leave behind, and know that help is always needed and deeply appreciated. It is times like these that neighbors must help neighbors, and I urge you to open your hearts, and your wallets, to help.
That is why the City of Miami partnered with Catholic Charities, The American Red Cross, Miami Dade College, the University of Miami, and other community organizations in their efforts to collect aid and supplies to be sent to affected islands in the Caribbean. Catholic Charities and the Red Cross are requesting monetary donations to assist in their relief efforts.
Two weeks ago, after Hurricane Gustav ripped through Haiti, the City of Miami, led by Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, partnered with Dolphin Stadium, the Marlins, the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes to kick off “Operation: Hope for Haiti”. At the September 7th Miami Dolphins football game against the New York Jets, an overwhelming amount of food and clothing was collected. Food and clothing drops are located at all City of Miami Fire Stations and various Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) offices throughout the City.

Below please find information on all of the relief efforts, and find some time to donate to those in need.

· Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami
Catholic Charities Storm Aid
9401 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami Shores, FL 33138

· American Red Cross
The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or to your local American Red Cross chapter. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at
American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
American Red Cross
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

· Miami Dade College
Beginning on Monday, Sept. 15, through Friday, Sept. 19, MDC will collect nonperishable food, baby supplies and new or used clothing in good condition at eight of their campuses: Hialeah Campus, Homestead Campus, InterAmerican Campus, Kendall Campus, Medical Center Campus, North Campus, West Campus, Wolfson Campus, and Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center.

· Operation: Hope for Haiti
Operation Hope for Haiti will continue through September 19. Food and clothing drops are located at all City of Miami Fire Stations and various Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) offices throughout the City. Residents are encouraged to donate non-perishable items, water, medicine and clothing. In addition to donating items at the City of Miami Fire-Rescue Stations and NET offices, Miami Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricane Fans can donate food and clothing at the Dolphin Stadium during game time. For more information on Operation: Hope for Haiti, please contact the office of Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones at (305) 250-5390.