You’re probably tired of politics. Too bad, says Justin Wales. 2017 is going to matter in Miami.

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

Justin Wales is a board member at Engage Miami, which aims to get young people more involved in local politics and government. We’ve edited this interview lightly for clarity and length. 

What he thinks will go well

It’s an odd year. I look at it as what elections are lined up for 2018 and beyond and how is that going to play into local politics.

Esteban Bovo (the new chairman of the county commission) has showed a willingness to work across the board on what many people believe is the most important issue among young people: solving the transportation problem. I think there is a real possibility of change under Bovo, to keep moving forward and plan solutions to transportation.

Daniella Levine-Cava is going to try to implement legislation that is a response to the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women. She’s going to be working on the CEDAW report (Editor’s note: CEDAW = Commission to End Discrimination Against Women, and it’s a United Nations convention the county commission adopted in 2016. Then they commissioned and issued a report about the state of women in Miami-Dade). She’s going to be working on things to support efforts for pay equity, to support efforts to diminish domestic violence. Those to me are the most promising government prospects.

What’s not going to go so well

I think there is a lot that may not be as promising, especially related to affordable housing and sea level rise. We now have a very conservative president, state legislature, state executive, and a lot of very conservative people in local government who I think may not be prioritizing sea level rise and climate change. That means its really up to the community groups and the activists to make sure that issue doesn’t go away. I don’t think there’s going to be a real willingness to implement transparency and campaign finance reform on a local level under the local board as it is situated.

Just the other day, mandatory inclusionary zoning failed. That was sort of the big push to make Miami more affordable. There’s an ongoing question of “Will Miami ever be affordable to normal folks?” I don’t know if theres anything on the horizon that gives us hope it ever will be.

There are a lot of very good people working throughout local government and it’s a matter of whether we can utilize them toward policies beneficial to all of us.

We can’t get tired.

The entire community and in fact the country is exhausted from politics. We had 18 months of hard hitting, never-ending nasty national election, but we should realize with these local issues and local politicians that change starts from the community. I think a lot of people are saying we don’t have to think about politics for four years. But there are a lot of issues coming before the county and city, and in 2017 and 2018 there will be important elections at the county level and various municipalities… these are opportunities for real change, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. You have to be vigilant during off years if you want progress.

One of our big issues moving forward at Engage is automatic voter registration and the hope is we get more and more people involved in the election process, not just when there’s a superstar reality show candidate, but all of the elections… and making it as easy as possible for you to get information and get out and vote. That’s how you change things.