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Message from Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
Fellow residents of Miami-Dade County:
This is an exciting time to be your mayor, and I would like to thank you for the honor of serving you for another four years. It is a new year with new challenges and opportunities ahead of us, and the state of our County is stronger than it has been in the past decade.
We have accomplished so much together over the last year for all Miamians, and we should take pride in that. We can be proud that our budget is sustainable, resilient and forward-looking. In fact, for the first time in five years, we were able to reward County employees for their past sacrifices and hard work with a four percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2016.
At five percent, our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since I was first elected Mayor in 2011. We have also created more than 168,000 private-sector jobs since 2011, and our economic growth has continued to outpace our population growth. Companies like NBC Universal/Telemundo Enterprises and Fed-Ex have chosen to grow their businesses right here in Miami-Dade County, bringing even more jobs, economic growth and opportunities to our world-class community. We have also streamlined our permitting process and made it much easier to do business here in Miami-Dade County.
And while 2015-16 was a strong year for Miami-Dade, it was not a year without significant challenges. Miami-Dade County came together as a community and showed our strength in the face of the Zika outbreak, becoming the first community in the world to break the cycle of local transmission—not just once, but four times over. And thanks to our aggressive mosquito-control response, we also broke records for overnight visitors, too, by welcoming 15.8 million people to Miami-Dade County in the last fiscal year.
Miami-Dade’s two largest economic engines, Miami International Airport and PortMiami, both had record-breaking years once again as well. With 44.5 million travelers, MIA broke records for air passenger traffic for the seventh consecutive year. MIA also added 10 new airlines and welcomed the first non-stop passenger trip from Asia to Miami. PortMiami broke a world record last year, too, welcoming nearly 5 million multi-day cruise passengers.
But one of the biggest challenges we have been facing in our community is traffic, and that is why we have led the charge to develop the six rapid-transit corridors our community needs. I am happy to report that we made in-roads in 2016 to solving our community’s first- and last-mile issue with the Commission’s approval of Uber and Lyft. We also launched apps and solutions like Easy Pay and a Transit Tracker app that makes using public transportation even more convenient, and we modernized our Traffic Management Center.
Most importantly, we have reduced commute times in some of our busiest corridors by re-timing our lights to respond to traffic patterns. On the segment of U.S. 1 from Southwest 152nd Street to Southwest 16th Avenue, we have reduced the average commute time by 25 percent. We are also continuing to install adaptive technology that will automatically re-time our traffic lights along our busiest corridors. This new technology has already been installed on Northwest 36th Street between 71st and 84th Avenues.
A lot more work needs to be done, and it will require close collaboration with federal, state, and local partners. Rest assured that your County Government is continuing its work to expand mobility options in Miami-Dade to improve your quality of life.
The safety of our community has been another challenge for us, and I’m proud of how far we have come in 2016. Miami-Dade County put 132 more officers on the street than we had last fiscal year. In fact, we graduated and deployed 256 police officers in fiscal year 2015-16, and became the largest police department in the nation to deploy body-worn cameras to better protect and serve our community.
Miami-Dade County also continued to make progress to reduce youth violence, reducing juvenile crime by 12 percent in the last fiscal year. This reduction can be attributed in part to the success of our Youth and Community Safety initiative, which involves mentoring at-risk youth in their homes, steering them away from crime, bringing needed support to their families, training them for jobs and keeping them engaged in healthy after-school activities.
The County, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the State Attorney’s Office, The Children’s Trust, and thousands of people from our community, is also creating neighborhood action plans through the Together For Children Coalition that will address the root causes of youth violence in our community.
Our continued economic development and diversification is another challenge and opportunity for us. And that is why we have continued training Miamians to enter the workforce in 2016. We celebrated the second anniversary of our Employ Miami-Dade initiative, which has put 557 residents of our community—who live in neighborhoods with the highest levels of unemployment—to work in jobs in construction, culinary management, and hospitality and tourism.
But world-class communities like Miami-Dade not only offer great place to work and live, they also offer great places to enjoy. And that is why we continued to invest in our arts, cultural and recreational offerings in 2016, including further implementation of the Parks and Open Space Masterplan. We also opened the County’s first designated mini water park, opened our 50th library branch, and surpassed the one-million-visitor mark at Zoo Miami. With the $52 million we invested in our new entry plaza and Florida: Mission Everglades Exhibit, we can expect to see more visitors than even in 2017. We can also look forward to the opening of the Frost Museum of Science later this year, which will bring one of the most advanced museums of science and technology in the nation to Miami-Dade County.
These are just some of our many achievements over the last fiscal year. We are hard at work on a resiliency plan to prepare our entire region to adapt to the biggest challenges facing our community so that we can create an even better Miami-Dade for our children and grandchildren. We will continue to work on addressing all of our challenges head-on, like working to improve transportation, public safety, and bringing even more jobs and affordable housing to Miami-Dade through housing developments like Liberty Square and Lincoln Gardens in the City of Miami, which we will break ground on this year.
My fellow residents, I am looking forward to all the work we are going to do together in 2017 to continue to make Miami-Dade even greater for this generation, and for future generations of Miamians. We are going to make our community safer and more secure. We are going to grow and diversify our economy even more. We are all going to do our part to reduce traffic congestion, and we are going to work together to prepare for the future so that Miami-Dade will be an even better place for every single one of our residents. We have a solid plan in place and we have the right people here in County Government, and in the community, to take us to the next level.
The state of our County is strong, and together, we are making it even stronger. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless Miami-Dade County.
Carlos A. Gimenez
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