A changing of the guard, of sorts, has taken place in Miami Gardens, the state’s largest majority black city in the northern section of Miami-Dade County.
The first and, until then, only mayor, Shirley Gibson, has made way, after two terms, for Oliver Gilbert, a bright up-and-coming politician who could be at the start of a bright future. He took the oath of office on Aug. 30 and immediately called on residents to regard themselves as one and throw their weight behind plans to develop the city.
Miami Gardens has a weak mayor form of government so Mayor Gilbert will not have control of the administration. He is only one member of the City Council, which sets policy for the city manager to execute. But he appears to command substantial support on the council and most certainly among residents. After all, he won more than 60 percent of the votes cast in the August elections – in a very crowded field of seven candidates.
He is therefore ideally situated to push his agenda which, he has told the South Florida Times, is geared to economic development, programs for the young and seniors and better policing. His overall plan is to make Miami Gardens a destination spot.
He is shrewd in his call for a united front as he starts his term in office. “Understand that Miami Gardens is not an ‘I’ or a ‘them’…We are Miami Gardens. We will grow this city together,” he said during his swearing-in ceremony at Florida Memorial University.
He will need the city’s support. Miami Gardens has the potential for almost unlimited growth. The city’s 107,000 hard-working, industrious men, women and children are mostly committed to improving their prospects in life through education. The Sun Life football stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, is already serving as an economic engine, though nowhere on the scale envisioned by the late Joe Robbie, who built the facility with private funds and saw it as the nucleus of a bustling billion-dollar complex of hotels, shops and residences. There is room for more development built around the stadium.
There is also the Calder Casino and Race Course, another economic engine that has helped push employment but with scope for more growth.
Crime, though, is still high, including gun violence, and any effort to attract business must include a sustained crackdown on criminal behavior. The top-notch police brass need more support from the mayor and council, and they should get it because safety and stability are essential to any forward momentum.
Welcome to the hot seat, Mr. Mayor, and seize the moment. Justify the confidence that has been shown in you. You will have the goodwill of your colleagues and your fellow residents. Make your mark on an already historic city. Ms. Gibson led the incorporation struggle and stayed at the helm to ensure there is a foundation on which the future can be built. She served the city with vision and determination. Now, Mr. Mayor, your responsibility is to accomplish even more.