Special to South Florida Times
NORTH CENTRAL MIAMI-DADE — Miami-Dade County’s lone Haitian-American commissioner Jean Monestime summarized his tenure in office so far this way: “We wanted change. Our community hungered for a fresh start. This was the call to action that I gladly answered when I took the oath of office.”
Monestime’s comment came as he gave his first State of the District address May 24 at the William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, 10151 N.W. 19th Ave.
Creation of the 79th Street Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) took center stage as Monestime gave an account of his stewardship during his first 18 months in office.
Development of what he called the first and only Green Technology Corridor in the county and efforts to pass legislation to increase opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs were also among accomplishments Monestime listed for District 2.
He represents some 160,000 residents living in parts of Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, Hialeah, Biscayne Gardens and unincorporated areas of north central Miami-Dade.
Monestime said the CRA will play a vital role in improving the district for families and businesses. It will “fuel the economic engine of transformation along the 79th Street corridor,” he sad.
“In the coming years, you will see roads improve, businesses open and signs of economic vitality spring up along 79th Street.”
Monestime said he has been working with the state and regional governments to bring renewed attention to Seventh Avenue. “Planning for extending beautification along this vital commercial corridor is now underway, thanks to a partnership with the South Florida Regional Planning Council,” he said.
On the Green Technology Corridor, Monestime said such an initiative has been shown to spark economic growth even in the depths of a recession.
“We are positioning our district to attract green industries, clean technology and so-called green-collar jobs,” he said. Green jobs are often found in industries that “you cannot export. Businesses are rooted in their communities and provide local jobs.”
Monestime blamed decades of neglect for giving his district a hard time competing for new businesses. The county “has not invested in our communities in past years,” he said. “I am working to change this.”
Properties in Poinciana Development Park have remained vacant for decades, he said. “And that cannot continue.”
He said he has pushed the county to develop a marketing plan for the properties in the industrial park and Miami-Dade has issued a report “that shows the potential uses for the site and incentives available to companies looking to bring industry and jobs to these properties.”
Looking ahead, Monestime said that he recently received word that construction will begin soon on a recreational center for seniors at Arcola Lakes Park. Also, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Park will get exercise equipment and Gwen Cherry Park recently opened its swimming pool.
“We can never underestimate the value of a park and its ability to improve the quality of life for our residents,” Monestime said. “Parks bring us together and reflect our shared values.”
The commissioner’s statement caught Little Haiti resident Liston Pierre off guard. He said he had “no idea so much was going on to better the district.”
Monestime “talked a lot during his campaign about his vision for the district and the changes he would make and you have to realize the condition and the attitude before he took office. It seemed that money was being spent everywhere and there was always an excuse for Little Haiti to not be a part of that pie,” Pierre said.
But now, he said, “it appears that his words were real because things are progressing. He’s doing a great job.”
Cherlie Maxie of North Miami also said Monestime was “doing a good job.”
“He cares about the people and their concerns. The neighborhoods are better, safety is improving and parks are cleaner. You actually see families using them. I can only say that he has been true to his word,” Maxie said.
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Photo: Jean Monestime