‘No more talk’: The county chairman vows some legit action on transportation in 2017

We’re going to be spending this month making the city’s movers and shakers nail down some resolutions for their work in 2017. This week we’re talking local governance.

bovoEsteban Bovo became the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission at the end of last year. We’ve edited this interview lightly for clarity and length.

What’s your biggest priority as chairman?

The top one, two, three, and four is transportation funding and how do we fulfill the commitment of all the desires that we have as a board and as a government? We can’t get to a [rail] corridor or two if we don’t have funding in place.

The first part of the year, we’ll ID two or three sources of funding. Some may require voter approval, some might be done by county and commission action.

The SMART plan (Editor’s note: that’s a county plan for six new rail lines) can’t be fulfilled with just us trying to raise local funds. The reality of this situation is you can’t do this without some level of federal and state support.

We need to rein in all this transportation talk under one umbrella. What we can’t do is send mixed signals to our federal and state partners. You can’t have 10 priorities, you have to one priority. We need to speak more in unity.

If we don’t do that and if we don’t speak with clarity, there may be a move on the horizon to rescind the half penny tax we currently have.  They’ll say, “You haven’t done anything. Why give it to you?”

It could become very real if we don’t show some real progress on transportation, something happening that they can touch and feel and see. No more talk and no more studies.

What are the hurdles to making that happen?

Do we fall in the parochial, “Let’s talk about my district first and not the county first mentality?” It’s not the fault of any particular commissioner, its the reality of the way our county is constructed. 

Some of the issues I’ve talked about, which are across all districts, fall by the wayside.

The obstacle is politics. Do we have the political will to act on these things? We need to say, “This is what its going to cost, this is how we plan on raising the money,” and then proceed.

In six years none of the members of that board will probably be there, you’re going to see a complete turnover of that board. Are we going to occupy space or are we going to do something? I don’t want to fall in the occupy space category.

So which corridor is coming first?

The south corridor seems to be very ripe for us to be able to move on it. The north corridor has been promised but theres some complications. There’s will on the board to do it.

The northeast corridor seems to be pretty ripe now for some proactive movement due to Brightline (Editor’s note: That’s the in-progress train line that will connect Miami to Orlando).

The east-west corridor, which is probably the most heavily traveled corridor… we’re not there yet. I’ve talked extensively the last two years about needing to look at that corridor from the MIC (Editor’s note: that’s the Miami Intermodal Center, where a bunch of transportation options connect near the airport) to Dolphin Mall and beyond.

That east-west corridor, people are paying to drive on it now. These are people that are paying now and don’t have any alternatives. 

Anything else?

I think we need to look at our prison system. It’s archaic and very old and needs an upgrade in the worst way.

There are some lawsuits already pending out there. The prison facilities… are in deplorable condition. Sometimes, as in the past… when the county becomes derelict in its responsibility to maintain something, a lawsuit or federal mandate could force us to have to do something that may be even costlier than if we try to fix or improve the facility.

A future commission, if not this commission, is going to have to deal with this.