A year ago today, we launched The New Tropic. To commemorate the occasion, we wrote Miami a love letter. “We’re excited about Miami’s future,” we said. “About its hidden corners and emerging talents; about the people who will make it an even better place five, ten, 50 years from now.” Having spent a year learning from and exploring with all of you, we feel even more confident about our city’s future today than we did then — despite immense and looming challenges to which we’ve thus far mustered a feeble response.
We’re spending January talking to community leaders in nearly every sector, asking for their resolutions for 2016. On the occasion of our first birthday, we want to share our own. We don’t tend toward editorializing because we wear a journalist hat and I think we look better in it. But we spent enough time in our first year reporting on Miami that we have a few of our own resolutions for the next year.
Make growth work for everyone
We live in a place with some of the worst income inequality in America. It is crushing and pervasive. Solving that problem is vital — more than any startup, any tech hub any tourism stay or business improvement initiative — to what happens here in 5, 10, or 25 years.
By many numerical accounts, Miami is in an impressive moment of growth. New buildings, new businesses, new residents, rising post-recession incomes, and falling unemployment. But as we found a year ago with Miami-Dade’s chief economist, that growth isn’t yet working for all — or even most — of us. The gains are concentrated among the wealthiest Miamians, with stagnant wages for lower income families. How can we leverage the world’s explosive interest in our city toward better outcomes for everyone who lives here?
There is no road to success for this place, or any other, that cannot carry all its people. We know this already, intuitively even if not immediately. But we are numb to it. We write about income inequality as a thing that happens to us, caught like an annoying cold we hope will go away soon, with certain symptoms but uncertain cures. This is wrong. We can solve for it. It is a collective problem with a collective solution. Unfortunately, Miami has not been very good at those.
Fortunately, there are people trying to change that. In November, lawyers Chuck Elsesser, Alana Greer, and Meena Jagannath launched the Community Justice Project, working to provide legal aid services in underserved communities. The Talent Development Network is helping college graduates find internships and jobs. Training programs like Miami-Dade College’s CS50x are helping students young and old find new careers.
Move the ball on our biggest challenges
Miami is a confounding place of colliding opposites, of opportunity and disappointment, of innovation and stubborn old ways, of family and isolation. It’s the act of untangling these things that makes life here compelling for many of us, but it’s also what makes Miami feel unmanageable and incomprehensible.
We spend a lot of time talking with locals about their experiences in Miami, immersing ourselves in different places and points of view. It helps make our work more effective. We’ve learned that while locals love this renaissance moment of Miami, it’s hard to make sense of it on a daily basis, and harder still to see if we’re making progress on the city’s most pressing needs.
We had our share of morose articles about sea level rise last year, along with some victories in the hiring of a chief resilience officer at Miami-Dade County, projects for adaptation and mitigation on Miami Beach, and environmental groups pushing to protect precious resources from destruction.
We had false starts on long-delayed transit projects and fights about funding, along with green shoots in the Underline, the Ludlam Trail, and new initiatives on Miami Beach. There are promising ideas from promising people, like Alice Bravo, who took on a new role directing transit and public works for Miami-Dade County, envisions a “car-optional city” for Miami’s future.
This progress is necessary, but not sufficient. We need vision. We need a roadmap of where we’re going that all of us can read, support, and question.
Invest in innovators
If there’s a single reason to get excited about Miami’s future, it’s the people working to make this place better. They’re everywhere, from the darkest corners of municipal government, to the biggest companies, to those tiny neighborhood labors of love. Many of our neighbors are building innovative projects that can shape the world far beyond our local borders, from Rebecca Fishman Lipsey’s program for teaching social entrepreneurship to New World Symphony’s WALLCAST to the Miami Book Fair.
We need this innovation to flourish. We need it to come from everywhere; from business and government and nonprofits and individuals. Too often, we’ve heard from people working to create change that their journey was one of lonely persistence. This is a counterintuitively small town, driven by relationships and personal networks — that won’t change. But this moment of energy requires a culture of openness to new ideas and experimentation at every level of our city, from the most formal to the least — a willingness to prototype, to fail, to learn and try again.
That’s a culture we build together, and if we expect it from our institutions, we then have to show up and engage to make it real.
Invest in each other
We learned more than we thought possible this year. It’s all of you who make this thing possible, and we want to spend our second year learning how we can do an even better job investing in each other.
So where should we start? Where can you make connections that matter in Miami this year? Where are the new opportunities, and the new ideas? How can we invest in you in 2016?