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Written by John Ise, BT Contributor   
April 2017

Let’s check in with our 2013 wish list

TPixJohn_Ise-17he following is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions I offered back in early 2013 as a way to influence the candidates then running for Miami Shores Village Council. With April elections just a few weeks away, let’s revisit the list and see what has or hasn’t come to pass.

Traffic and Pedestrian Issues Make Miami Shores more pedestrian and bike-friendly. I suggested installing flashing crosswalks to ease pedestrian and bike crossings at busy thoroughfares, such as 2nd Avenue, Miami Avenue, 6th Avenue, 98th Street, 103rd Street, and Biscayne Boulevard. Crossing some of these intersections can be like playing the old arcade game Frogger.

Four-way Stop Signs We can slow traffic with four-way stop signs on every residential intersection. Many residential streets have only two-way stop signs that allow the speedy motorist (is there another kind in Miami?) to get up to 45 or 50 mph on some residential streets.

Greenway Trail In Indianapolis, the city managed to build, as they put it, “a network of urban bike and pedestrian paths that connect neighborhoods, cultural districts, and entertainment amenities, and serves as the downtown hub for the entire central Indiana greenway system.” The Shores -- and better yet, our neighboring villages -- could likewise be connected with some simple bike signage, traffic calming, landscaping, and pathways that link area amenities. The Village could connect the waterfront to the Community Center/athletic field and to downtown Shores with a pathway that saves pedestrians and bicyclists from risking life and limb against out-of-control SUVs. Think big, I wrote!

Update The Village has commissioned a traffic study that looks at ways to calm traffic. It has also promoted pedestrianism, installed bicycle signage, and narrowed downtown’s 2nd Avenue to a single lane going in either direction. We even have a “greenway” that seeks to link Village destinations to one another. We could use more crosswalks with flashing signals (officially called “rectangular rapid-flash beacons”), pedestrian islands, and four-way stop signs, particularly along the greenway route. Sadly, Florida remains No. 1 in nationwide pedestrian fatalities.

Recreation and Park Amenities Toss the gym membership for an outdoor fitness station. A great development in public parks in recent years has been the installation of outdoor fitness and workout stations. The Shores has little more than pull-up bars, but we could have Vita-like fitness stations like Legion Park.

Great parks are beautiful, but they also have lots of people. Memorial Park on NE 2nd Avenue is a great example of a beautiful local park, but it’s usually empty. The addition of a tot lot, shade structures, benches, or an exercise facility might help populate this gem.

Dog Park At the risk of revisiting a contentious issue, I wrote in 2013 that a dog park at Constitution Park would be a great amenity to dog lovers. Mark Twain wrote about dogs, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

Update The Village delivered modest fitness stations alongside the tennis courts and a recently opened dog park that is simply awesomely awesome! On another exciting note, the Village is currently tinkering with the possibility of a farmers market at Optimists Park. Recreation has become the hot potato in this election season, with a vote to allow for a bond of up to $20 million for the development of a new recreation center.

Library and Library Hours Link the Brockway to the county library system: The Village library is another gem, but given its size limitations, it can carry only so many titles. Miami Shores is one of only two municipalities that operate their own libraries and elect not to participate in a reciprocal borrowing arrangement with Miami-Dade County Public Library System. As just one example of its limitations, the Brockway carries 19 books about the Dominican Republic (just to pick a topic at random), whereas the county system carries close to 500.

Other municipalities can tap into the county system, but since the Shores has no such arrangement, we residents must pony up $100 to get a Miami-Dade library card. With a reciprocal borrowing agreement between the Village and county, our access to titles extends into the hundreds of thousands. Also, the library would be well served to offer extended evening and weekend hours for working folks.

Update The library is poised for a renovation and expansion of its children’s wing. While it’s still not linked to the county, Brockway is linked into a broader regional network that has an inter-library loan arrangement. If you’re seeking those additional titles about the Dominican Republic that Miami-Dade has but we don’t, ask the front desk. It may take a few weeks, but you’ll receive them.

Other Stuff Love thy neighbor: Too often, I wrote in 2013, the “vibe” of the Village is exclusivity. We tend to look upon our neighbors with suspicion. Joint efforts with North Miami, El Portal, and Biscayne Park make all the sense in the world. Additionally, the Shores should celebrate our growing diversity with events to note black history, Haitian/Latin culture, and more.

Do the right thing: Elected officials should work not only to improve the lives of their constituents, but to serve the greater good (however they see it). The Village can undertake a host of impactful and/or symbolic efforts to show that it takes a stand on pressing issues of the day.

From a progressive standpoint, a local “living wage” policy guaranteeing that no Village full-time employee falls below the federal poverty line; a stand against movement of the county’s Urban Development Boundary; an affirmation of marriage equality; joining Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Gun Violence, petitioning for clean elections and campaign finance reforms, among other efforts.

Update The Village, after some dramatic commotion, came out for marriage equality in 2014, improved its stance toward the LGBTQ community, and is more celebratory of our diversity.

The Miami Shores People of Color group has been created with the explicit intention of becoming a more organized force in Village governance. More linkages with our neighboring communities should be encouraged. I support the idea of merging Miami Shores, Biscayne Park, and El Portal into a single municipality (see “It Takes a (Bigger) Village,” January 2017).

In sum, the Village has made real quality-of-life strides in recent years. So get involved, be constructive, be polite and kind, and be patient. We may actually see more progress. As author Margaret J. Wheatley once wrote: “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it urgently cares about.”

 

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