Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez went to the heart of Liberty City Thursday to tout the county's accomplishments, giving a "state of the county'' speech heavily focused on transit and business goals, with little detail on how they would be accomplished.
Gimenez, addressing about 500 people at the Joseph Caleb Center Auditorium, highlighted 2012 as a record year at the county's airport and seaport, and said he was committed to growing arts and culture, improving the county's park system, and bringing modern technology to a local transportation system that is archaic and limited.
"We're facing major mobility challenges," Gimenez said. "We need to embrace innovative and cost-effective changes."
Gimenez said he wants to partner with Miami Beach in redeveloping the city's convention center, and will push to connect the Beach to the mainland, and western suburbs like Kendall to downtown, with a more state-of-the-art transportation plan.
"If we don't look for innovative solutions, one thing is certain: the unacceptable status quo of choked roadways and grueling daily commutes will remain firmly in place," he said.
The mayor also took a moment to thank outgoing Miami International Airport Director Jose Abreu for the seven years he has spent at the helm, implementing the airport's $6 billion-plus overhaul, including new concourses, baggage automation, retail and the MIA Mover, a transport system inside MIA similar to downtown's People Mover. Abreu, who is leaving for a private consulting engineering job, received two standing ovations.
"Jose, we're going to miss you," the mayor said.
The hour-long update on the county's welfare began shortly after 10 a.m. with Miami Heat commentator Jason Jackson acting as emcee, touting the Heat's accomplishments and introducing the Miami-Dade Combined Honor Guard, representing police, fire and corrections officers. Miami Springs High graduate Kaylah Taylor then sang the national anthem.
That was followed by an invocation from newly promoted Police Director J.D. Patterson, also a minister at the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City.
Up next was Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who introduced Gimenez. Edmonson glowed and cracked jokes, clearly thrilled that the mayor's second state of the county speech was taking place at the Caleb Center in her district, just a few blocks from a long-awaited transit hub the mayor would later highlight in his speech. She thanked Gimenez for making careful cuts in government and the county's budget, and for raising Miami-Dade's profile internationally.
"Mayor Gimenez has built a history of courage and action," she said.
Finally, it was the mayor's turn. Gimenez repeated certain small parts of his speech he wanted highlighted in Spanish.
He outlined a county partnership with Launch Pad, a new program intended to enhance opportunities for young high-tech firms to start up and meet each other, in which the county invested $1 million. He thanked the Knight Foundation for a $2 million donation to Endeavor, a global nonprofit that works to speed up business in metropolitan areas, and he announced the creation of a task force that will lobby Tallahassee to reform Citizen's Property Insurance Corp.
"The time has come for us to fulfill our potential as a dynamic global community that stands out on the world stage," Gimenez told the crowd. "I'll need your help. It will take the shared efforts of all of us, but together I'm confident we will succeed."
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