shirley gibson.2_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — Mayor Shirley Gibson has warned residents to be prepared for another tough economic year.

But, in her eighth annual state of the city address on May 12, she also said plans are moving ahead to start construction of a city hall and police department complex this summer.

The project accounts for $54 million in this year’s budget.

“We must construct this complex because the time is really now,” Gibson told the audience gathered in the Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts at Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Ave. “We must still move forward, even in difficult times,” Gibson said in her address, entitled, “We are the Keepers of Our Community.”

Saying she wanted to “talk to you very realistically about what is going on and what problems we will be facing,” the mayor noted that in the past fiscal year, the city eliminated 130 jobs and raised the property tax rate in an effort to avoid drastic cuts in services.

A proposed budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year has yet to be presented to the city council but Gibson warned that it will be another tough year. 

“We deliver your quality of life services each and every day. You have expectations of the level of service you receive. What we want and absolutely need will be scrutinized,” she said.

Gibson pointed to at least one bright spot, the annual Jazz in the Gardens, which she fought successfully to save from the budget axe.  The mega concert, held at Sun Life Stadium, featured appearances by Lauryn Hill, Charlie Wilson and Bobby Brown and made $1.5 million in ticket sales at the box office, she said. 

Gibson stressed the importance of community involvement in the development of Miami Gardens, the third largest city in Miami-Dade County, with more than 110,000 residents, and the largest predominantly black city in Florida.

“I am depending on you and you can depend on me,” said Gibson.

Gibson used the occasion to recognize some businesses, including the staff of the Walgreen’s Pharmacy at Northwest Second Avenue and 199th Street, who caught what could have been a fatal mistake in a patient’s prescription. The staff received a certificate of appreciation from the city.

“This feels awesome,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, a pharmacist at the Walgreens, “It’s not like we did anything special, we just do our job, but it’s nice to be recognized.”

Resident Reetha Boone-Fye said she understood the economic difficulties that the city has faced and appreciated the job Gibson has been doing.

“I enjoyed the speech completely. I think that the city has made more progress than even the skeptics thought they would,” said Boone-Fye. 

Gibson has served as the mayor of Miami Gardens since the city was created. She entered politics in 1996, when she served on the Miami-Dade County Community Council 3. She later chaired the North Dade Municipal Advisory Committee and the Committee to Incorporate the City of Miami Gardens.