There are many components to the Waterfront, many problems to be solved, many compromises to be made, and many communities with diverse interests. Stakeholders all want to keep control of whatever piece of surf or turf that has traditionally been their home. Government is mandated to manage the safety and environmental health of our land and resources, and is also obligated to manage public facilities in such a way that the taxpayers realize maximum value. I cant imagine how anyone could disagree with this, but there are important differences in how value is interpreted. Different things are valuable to different people.
On one hand, there are stakeholder groups who assert the value of their communities and the contributions they make to the society-at-large. There is history and camaraderie here and a spirit that is integral and successful to the preservation and eventual success of the Waterfront.
On the other hand, there are people who are charged with the task of fiduciary management of public facilities who are responsible for ensuring that the spreadsheets arent full of red cells. While somewhat less inspiring and full of Old Grove Community spirit, this side of the equation is just as important to the success of the Waterfront.
Having been part of the heated battle between these two elements, I believe much of our Waterfront troubles have to do with the imbalance and disharmony between these two forces. We need a common vision and a means through which each side can make concessions, defend its high ground and where each stakeholder group can clearly see its role as a part of something much larger than its own interests. Plenty of us non-Government folks have a long way to go as far as integrating our needs and wants into a larger social tapestry. Ive been critical of the City at times, but theyre not solely responsible for whats not working.
So, heres the beef Fort Lauderdale has an $8 billion annual sailing industry and no place to sail. We have one of the Worlds great sailing grounds on Biscayne Bay and virtually no marine industry. My goal is to make Miami the sailing Mecca of the United States. Would I rather have Elliot Key to myself? Sure, but we have bigger problems to solve and I think 8 billion dollars would go a long way towards solving them. I can handle a few more boats on Biscayne Bay.
The recipes for making this happen are as follows:
- Promote Miami as a Sailing Destination. Im working on this one along with some Marine Industry folks through the CruiseMiami campaign. This will create jobs and tourism for the poorest City in the United Sates.
- Maintain and Manage a Free Anchorage Yes, I know all about the problems in the Anchorage. Boats sink and have to be salvaged at taxpayer expense. There are environmental issues. I did say manage, and I worked hard with the State of Florida, the City and a team of excellent and dedicated people to draft some pretty good guidelines for that management. The problem is that if slips and moorings limit the number of boaters on the Bay or limit those who can afford to stay here, weve effectively put up expensive parking meters in front of our marine businesses. Slips and moorings are great for those who want them, but many boaters (myself included) prefer to use their anchors and choose their own spot. Instead of charging for quasi-real estate and then attempting to run around in a small boat to collect, enforce and troubleshoot, its infinitely easier to charge service fees and have boaters voluntarily come to shore to pay for what they need.
Right now, services are denied to anchored boaters who have offered to pay. This interferes with commerce and smudges any reputation for hospitality our City might cultivate. The City Government realizes direct revenue from slip rentals, but the City Residents realize direct revenue from everyone who spends money here. A free managed anchorage will facilitate cruising traffic which benefits the public, while the sale of services will generate direct revenues to the City coffers.
- Establish a Sailing Center in Coconut Grove. - A private/public partnership could empower the City to oversee a Sailing-savvy organization that would manage the mooring fields and handle the provision of services to boaters. This ensures that the staff can tie a cleat knot and understand the culture and special needs of boaters. It's as much about communities as it is about facilities, but I'll explain that below.
- Open the Miami Marine Stadium. Boaters have been clamoring for a boatyard and other facilities. There is room here for a boatyard, for 800 moorings (at $150 per month, thats $1.44 million annually before any rent is paid by upland facilities), and other upland amenities. The marine stadium provides sheltered water, a great site for an eco-park, and within two miles of the Causeway entrance are a drugstore and a grocery store along with PeopleMover access. The field could be managed by someone sitting in the stadium press box with a pair of cheap binoculars. Beyond that, the stadium could be renovated to support concerts among the moored boats another revenue generator and public attraction. Theres lots of room here for the shuffling of Coconut Grove facilities that are in contention by various public and private interests. The most valuable and important piece of our waterfront isnt even being used, and it's a lynch pin problem solver!
- Communities vs. Facilities - This is not a physical, tangible element, but it is as important and powerful as any other component. Even though the marina, the sailing club, the anchorage, and various uplands are technically pieces of City-owned land and could be (and have to be) categorized as facilities, they are also communities of people and need to be treated as such. While people need to understand that Government has an obligation to manage its facilities (and technically has no power to manage communities- and therefore has little incentive to concern itself with them), Government needs to carefully handle shifts in facilities management because they can have radical effects on peoples lives. The solution, recommended in the TA Report, is to create an Oversight Board that would work with the City to coordinate planning and management for the betterment of both the City and the Citizens. This board should be comprised of stakeholder representatives rather than political appointees, as well as City Management, Law Enforcement and Environmental Agency people.
These are the short versions and the devil is in the details. However, my hope is that these ideas will make excellent seeds for discussion and the forum for that discussion is right here.