LINKing with Miami

Neely Young

Neely Young

I just got back from a foreign country - Miami and South Florida. This is a joke, of course, and one that Miami leaders good-naturedly tell on themselves. Miami Mayor Manuel "Manny" Diaz told a story of how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in town giving a speech, and when she finished turned to an aide and said "I've got to get back to the United States." The embarrassed Rice didn't realize the mike was still on.





The reason for my visit was my eighth LINK trip, sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission. LINK stands for "Leadership, Innovation, Networking and Knowledge." More than 130 leaders from Metro Atlanta's 10-county region participated this year, including county commissioners, mayors, activists, developers, journalists, chamber of commerce members and ARC staffers.





The main focus of these trips, which visit a different locale each year, is for the group to learn what other cities and regions can teach Atlanta area leaders about coping with problems such as traffic congestion, keeping our air and water clean, and, most important this year, how to handle explosive growth in the immigrant population.





During the 1990s, Miami and South Florida had the same enormous growth and change in ethnic population as we are experiencing in Atlanta, and in other parts of Georgia. The area's population increased by 23 percent, and shifted from majority to minority white. In Miami proper, with a 2.36 million population, the Hispanic/Latino population makes up 57 percent of the city. African Americans represent 20 percent and whites and others make up the balance.





During our visit we enjoyed several presentations, but the most important and dynamic one was a panel discussion about diversity and cultural issues facing the region. The panel was moderated by Cuban-American Mayor Diaz and was included a white, red-headed president of the Miami-Dade County Chamber of Commerce, a black Haitian-American member of the city council, and a Cuban-American council member.





We learned that Cuban immigrants enjoy special privileges not shared with other ethnic groups. In the 1960s after Fidel Castro was in power many middle-class and wealthy citizens had fled Cuba; following the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a sympathetic U.S. Congress granted all Cubans who come to the U.S. automatic citizenship after only a short time on American soil.





As a result Cuban-Americans make up the majority of Miami's Hispanic/Latino population and also control the city's political structure. There could be a major resentment among the area's white, African American, Haitian and other immigrant populations. Yet these leaders have worked out a structure in which they seem to get along together, and the community's civic will is focused on building a better Miami-Dade County.





Most visitors remember the Miami of the 1990s. The region at that time was awash in political and ethnic turmoil. Riots and civil unrest seemed to be a daily event, and the city government was almost bankrupt. Since that time a new mayor and city council have effected a complete turnaround.





We all marveled at how well the ethnically mixed leadership - the mayor and council - worked together. The white minority members, Haitian- and African-American council members had nothing but praise for Mayor Diaz for cleaning up the city's political structure and bringing the city from almost bankruptcy to "A" Bond rating.


Southeast Florida continues to lead the state in population growth, adding 175,000 people since 2004. The growth is being driven by a surging trade sector and by the arrival of immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Miami is going through an unprecedented building boom. More than 70,000 condo units are under construction. The city will soon open a major art complex.



Our LINK group learned that if a community stops fighting with its multicultural population, good things can happen. Miami's governmental policy of embracing ethnic diversity has a positive side. Condi Rice is incorrect in saying Miami is a foreign country. It may be more and more like Atlanta, Georgia and the rest of the United States. We can all look to this city's leaders to learn how to best deal with our own immigration situations, which are not going away anytime soon, if ever.





John Ahmann, Atlanta Committee for Progress/Ahmann Boyette


Clara Axam, Enterprise Community Partners


Charles Bannister, Gwinnett County BOC


Brandon Beach, North Fulton Chamber of Commerce


Eldrin Bell, Clayton County Commission Chair


George Berkow, Cowart/Berkow Development


Kip Berry, Benchmark Homes


Kay Beynart, Citizen Activist


Bill Bolling, Atlanta Community Food Bank


Lisa Borders, Atlanta City Council President


Jim Breedlove, BellSouth Corporation


Robert Brown, RL Brown & Assoc.


Kellie Brownlow, Atlanta Regional Commission


Amanda Brown-Olmstead, A. Brown-Olmstead & Assoc.


Michael Byrd, Cherokee County


David Connell, Regional Business Coalition


Jock Connell, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners


Jack Conway, Forsyth County Commission Chair


Bill Cooper, Cobb Chamber of Commerce


Pat Corleto, CH2MHill


Steven Cover, City of Atlanta


Ann Cramer, IBM Corporation


Walter Deriso, GRTA


Gerri Dickerson, CH2MHill


Jeff Dickerson, Dickerson Communications


Douglas Dillard, Dillard & Galloway


Hattie Dorsey, Atlanta Neighborhood Development


Kit Dunlap, Metro North Water Planning District


Jim Durrett, Livable Communities Coalition


David Ellis, Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association


Todd Ernst, ARC Board Citizen District Member


Andrew Feiler, Metro Developers, Inc.


Shirley Franklin, Mayor, City of Atlanta


Sharon Gay, McKenna Long & Aldridge


Michael Gerber, Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education


Virginia Gibbs, Fayette County Chamber of Commerce


Sara Gonzalez, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce


Kevin Green, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce


Scotty Greene, Buckhead Community Improvement District


Jerry Griffin, Association County Commissioners of Georgia


David Hankerson, Cobb County Manager


Jason Harper, Henry County Commision Chair


Helen Hatch, Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Assoc.


Randy Hayes, Hayes Development Corporation


Rick Hirsekorn, Sandy Springs Service Team


Richard Holmes, Georgia Power


Douglas Hooker, PBS&J, Inc.


Kevin Isakson, Isakson-Barnhart


Vernon Jones, DeKalb County CEO


Maggie Joslin, McKenna Long & Aldridge


Raymond King, SunTrust


Chick Krautler, Atlanta Regional Commission


Steve Labovitz, McKenna Long & Aldridge


Tony Landers, Atlanta Regional Commission


Brian Leary, Atlantic Station


Tad Leithead, Cousins Properties


Loretta Lepore, Georgia Department of Economic Development


Eric Linton, Douglas County Government


Rob Lipson, WellStar Health System


Tim Lowe, Lowe Engineers


Stephen Macauley, The Macauley Companies


Ellen Macht, The Clean Air Campaign


Frank Mann, Trammell Crow Company


Thomas Martin, Gwinnett Community Bank


Penny McPhee, Arthur M. Blank Foundation


Michael Meyer, Department of Environmental and


Civil Engineering, Georgia Tech


Anna Millikan, Atlanta Regional Commission


Scott Morris, Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce


Lee Morris, Stevens, Wilkinson Stang & Newdow, Inc.


Emory Morsberger, Morsberger Group


Clair Muller, Atlanta City Council


Al Nash, The Columns Group, Inc.


Bill Nigut, Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition


Sam Olens, Cobb County Commission Chair


Al Outland, Georgia Municipal Association


Michael Paris, Council for Quality Growth


Carl Patton, Georgia State University President


Alicia Philipp, The Community Foundation


Ashlee Phillips, Atlanta Regional Commission


Kay Pippin, Henry County Chamber of Commerce


Cecil Pruett, Mayor, City of Canton


Laura Ray, Emory University


James Rhoden, Jr., Futren Corporation


Spurgeon Richardson, ACVB


Steve Rieck, Regional Atlanta Civic League


Malaika Rivers, Cumberland CID


A.J. Robinson, Central Atlanta Progress


Michael Robison, Lanier Parking Holdings


Rosa Rountree, State Road & Tollway Authority


H. Jerome Russell, H.J. Russell & Company


Maria Saporta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Pam Sessions, Hedgwood Properties


David Sjoquist, Georgia State University


Steve Smith, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.


Steve Stancil, GRTA


Shelton Stanfill, Woodruff Arts Center


Denise Starling, Buckhead TMA


Robert Steele, Oglethorpe Power Corporation


Jim Stokes, Georgia Conservancy


Eric Tanenblatt, McKenna Long & Aldridge


Pat Upshaw-Monteith, Atlanta Leadership Development Foundation


Ed Wall, MARTA


Harriette Watkins, AGL Resources


Tom Weyandt, Atlanta Regional Commission


Dave Williams, Southtrac, Inc.


J.T. Williams, Killearn, Inc.


Sam Williams, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce


Yvonne Williams, Perimeter CIDs


Dottie Wise, Henry County Chamber of Commerce


Jere Wood, Mayor, City of Roswell


Tom Worthan, Douglas County Commission


Neely Young, Georgia Trend Magazine





Neely Young is editor in chief and publisher of Georgia Trend. Contact him via e-mail at publisher@georgiatrend.com.



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