frederica-wilson-magenta_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has announced that she is assembling a task force to look into the findings of a national quality of life survey that ranked her District 17 in northwest Miami-Dade the lowest in the nation.

“I did not think it was us. It said that our people were suffering, struggling, starving and complaining. I thought Mississippi, Alabama, some other poor cities, but not us,” Wilson said of her reaction to the findings of the Gallup-Healthway’s annual Well-Being Index.

Wilson, D-Florida, was speaking at a forum she convened on April 28.

“I don’t want to be at the bottom anymore,” she said.

The forum, attended by about 110, took place in the Miami Gardens City Council Chambers, 1515 NW 167th St., Miami Gardens.

The task force will be chaired by T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami.

“I believe that after conversations with [Wilson] we will be able to craft a single focus statement that can be used to give direction for our future leaders,” Fair said.

According to the survey, of the 436 voting districts in the U.S., District 17 ranked the lowest in life evaluation or how residents’ lives are viewed today and in five years down the road.

The district also rated 430th in basic access to food, water and healthcare; 433rd in work environment; 431st in emotional health; 365th in healthy behavior or whether people eat healthy, exercise or schedule regular doctor visits; and 284 in physical health.

Overall, the district ranked 434th, dropping 183 spots between 2009 and 2010.

In gathering the data, Gallup contacted 1,000 respondents by phone every day for 355 days.

“People scored lower in how they feel their lives will be five years from now… they have dropped from thriving to struggling,” said Jason Milton, Gallup’s senior consultant, who presented the findings at the forum.

The Rev. Anthony Tate, who attended the forum, shot back, “This is information we already know. There have been so many surveys, year after year. The problem is that the funds that are supposed to be directed to our community are not getting down to the lower levels, and that’s what needs to be addressed.”

Pastor G. Benson Lewis said when data is viewed demographically people at the bottom of the category are those experiencing “the least of the best, the worst of the worst. They can be identified by socio-economic status. We may not want to deal with it but it’s the truth.”

Lewis added, “We are in a society where the pathways to well-being are being stripped every day. Our own well-being is tied to our own efforts.”

District 17 resident Elizabeth Judd said the report paints “a definitive, black-and-white picture of what we, as residents, have known.”

“I am expecting the elected officials to use this report to do their jobs and change this community,” Judd said. “They now have proof that there are certain needs, certain problems that cannot be swept under the rug.”

Wilson said the task force will represent “every area in the district.”

“We will put everyone together and look at all the indicators that have come out in this survey. And we have to do it quickly because we are going to use this to move the district in another direction,” she said.

The task force will be charged with identifying the number one issue, access to adequate health care, Wilson said.

“That plays a huge part in foreclosure, joblessness. If you don’t have a job or home, you can’t get access to health care,” she said.

Cynthia Roby can be reached at