Former Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz came to UM to speak about his book Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time on February 5th.
Most of us had or are having a hard time surviving freshman year without a car, but this eco-lover has been car-free for thirteen years. You would not expect the UM Law School graduate to be soft-spoken, but then again, there is much that is surprising about this politician; particularly refreshing, is his advocacy for the awareness of planet and culture.
“When I used to say, we need to make more green buildings, people thought I meant paint them green,” he confessed.
Miami has never been an eco friendly city. People who grow up here drive to Seven Eleven even when it’s a meager block away. He made the crowd laugh when he said,
“It’s not worth paying a first mortgage or a parking ticket when driving to South Beach for dinner when you could just take public transportation.”
While public transport may seem like an unrealistic dream, he asserts that our happiness depends on it more that our jobs.
When President Shalala asked, “Can Miami be a great city without a serious transportation system?” he responded “No, absolutely not.”
The issue, he said, is not just our dismissive mentality, but also that the city itself was “designed around cars, not people”.
However, he did end on a hopeful note, claiming that“Young people are demanding more and more public transport” and that the newer planet-conscious generations are the ones who can translate that dream into a reality.
Mr. Diaz didn’t just blindly advocate better choices – he supplied the explanations for why eco-friendly choices make sense for business. Greener buildings he says, now cost the same to build as non-green buildings.
One change that he suggests could improve our road efficiency is the continued addition of bicycle paths to promote the growing popularity of cycling as a mode of transport. Additionally, he offers that the growing suburban center means people will have to travel less to find good restaurants and nightlife, thus indirectly diminishing our use of vehicles.
Something which he is particularly proud of in downtown Miami is the Adrienne Arsht Center. In fact, the new performing arts center stands illuminated in the center of his book cover, with a night view of the Miami skyline as the backdrop.
“Art is something that society should always invest in because it’s about who we are, it binds us as a people and it’s also a great economic tool.”
The Adrienne Arsht Center also makes sense because it is located in a community redevelopment area, which he explained that the taxes generated are invested back into the same area. The numbers suggest that the Arsht Center has had a positive influence on the area. Five years prior to its ground-breaking the area’s tax base increased by $40 million. And in the five years after its inauguration, the tax base grew by one billion.
“I think that the investment that we made in building the center, not only for all the right reasons, in terms of being able to expose my children and you guys to great art, but also obviously the financial returns for the city and country”.
With statistics like that, Miami can hope for an even stronger brand image with transportation systems and art venues to rival the world’s greatest metropolises.
words and photo_louisa andonie.