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Miami mayor is honored as `urban innovator'


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Miami mayor is honored as `urban innovator'


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In June, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz traveled to the Big Apple, touting his city's ''renaissance'' to leaders of the respected Manhattan Institute think tank.

Consider them sold.

The institute on Tuesday honored Diaz with its 2004 Urban Innovator Award. This time, it was Manhattan Institute Executive Director Henry Olsen who made the trip, hopping on a plane to Miami to present Diaz the award in person during a ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Olsen cited the city's financial stability, falling crime rates, and improving quality of life as reasons for selecting the Miami mayor.

''He was an obvious choice,'' Olsen said of Diaz. ``He has been able to remake Miami's image.''

That image was indeed ready for a facelift. In recent decades, Miami's self-proclaimed identity as cosmopolitan sun-drenched paradise was marred by riots, a string of murdered tourists, and crisis after crisis -- not to mention arrests -- at City Hall.

Things have generally been on the upswing since Diaz assumed office in 2001. Wall Street boosted Miami's credit rating. Private investment swarmed the city, leading to an unprecedented building boom.

Recognition by the Manhattan Institute, Diaz said, is just one more reason for optimism.

''It's a sense of pride for all of us,'' Diaz said of the honor. ''It's further evidence that we have arrived as a city.'' Previous award recipients read like a virtual who's-who of successful big-city mayors: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

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Good for him. Miami has begun a turn-around. Yesterday, I read an article about the mayor of Hialeah and his city's urban planning. It was interesting to see their plan, and how it was being implemented. I wish Delray Beach would implement their plan, because I haven't seen much progress on it.

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Well, I read it in this magazine called "On Common Ground". You can see some of thei previous issues here. The Hialeah article was in Issue #8, which hasn't been added to the site yet. I'll check back to see when it gets put online.

Anyways, I read that Hialeah was implementing their plan to revitalize the city and add urbanity. It mentioned making Palm Avenue two-way with arcades (not the video-game type) and medians. It also showed mix-use development and smart growth. It basically coevered everything about urban life except for transit, which wasn't mentioned in the article. It was very interesting though.

*Also, check out the other previous issues. One has an article about Miami Lakes and Marineland. I like this magazine!

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I'll have to check out the magazine.

On Hialeah, it's an interesting place. Quite suburban but very dense as well. It was once Miami's hub of manufacturing, so you can imagine the industrial areas that make up parts of the city. I've seen some of the plans for the area, and even some of the new construction. They're basically creating a downtown out of nothing. From what I've seen so far they're doing a half-way decent job of it, but they have a long long way to go. It's the basic stuff that a lot of cities are starting to do: build to the streets; increased density; street parking; etc...

They've started their own bus system, which is in addition to the county bus lines. Hopefully somewhere along the lines they can turn one or two of the routes into street cars. The Metrorail goes through Hialeah but is too far from the urban center they're trying to build.

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Seeing this Hialeah discussion reminded me of this article I read a few months back... very interesting, in a "useless information" sort of way.


Hialeah's version of Easy Street: No meters

Hialeah doesn't have beaches, skyscrapers, glitz or glamour. It doesn't have parking meters, either.


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Say what you will about Hialeah, it qualifies as the rare big city that won't nickel-and-dime you to death.

Your quarters are safe here, too, actually.

Hialeah, Florida's fifth most populous city, is the only one among the top five not to have a single parking meter. Anywhere.

Not only does Hialeah lack meters, but the city has no parking department. There's no reason for city employees to flip through the latest issue of industry bible Parking Today, network at conferences held by the International Parking Institute, or swing a club at the Parking Professional Golf Classic.

Also: no millions in revenue from meter fees, or fines.

Hialeah's rejection of meters reaffirms its status as an anomaly among Florida's big cities. In the most tourist-oriented of states, Hialeah, with a population of slightly less than a quarter-million, remains the industrial oddball.

Longtime locals are divided over whether the 79-year-old city ever had parking meters, although if they existed, it has certainly been a while. City Clerk Dan Deloach, a city employee for 23 years and the man often considered Hialeah's unofficial historian, has no memory of meters.

Former Mayor Julio Martinez says downtown Hialeah had a few meters once, but they were removed after residents' complaints.

City officials are content to do without meters for now, in part because downtown street spaces are not in heavy demand. But it's also, they say, because Hialeah stakes its reputation on providing for -- not gouging -- its mostly working-class residents.

''I don't think they'd put up with it,'' City Council Vice President Esteban Bovo said of his constituents' likely reaction to meters. ``A lot has to happen before we get to that point.''

Adding meters in Hialeah, Bovo noted, would amount to ``political suicide.''

The mere mention of those four-foot-tall, coin-eating devils was enough to get Hialeah resident Eduardo Dowling all riled up.

''Absolutely not!'' exclaimed Dowling, who also owns Hialeah Stamps and Coins downtown.

''We already have enough taxes,'' Dowling continued. With meters, he said, ``who do you think is going to get the money? The city. No, not another cent.''

In Miami -- home to 7,950 parking meters -- officials say it is shopkeepers like Dowling who often benefit from their use. If parking is free, some cars are just parked in front of stores for hours, the reasoning goes. Customers drive by, see no available spaces, and keep on driving.

''What happens is people may never be able to get in or out of there,'' said Mark Trowbridge, director of planning and development at the 140-employee Miami Parking Authority. ``It ultimately hurts the business.''

Miami's parking authority pocketed about $1.7 million last year, after expenses. Parking hot spot Miami Beach -- with 8,095 meters -- took in about $4 million. Meter fees accounted for about 40 percent of parking revenue in both cities.

But parking officials in Miami and elsewhere vigorously deny that cities view meters as cash cows. Meter revenues are typically reinvested in a city's parking needs, Trowbridge says.

It is difficult to gauge how much money, if any, Hialeah loses by going without meters. Some downtown Hialeah businesses suspect that meters on their turf would just scare customers away.

''It would probably [tick] people off,'' said Nicole Williams, owner of the Kong Ming restaurant near Hialeah City Hall.

Cities across the state tout meters as proof of their vitality.

It is a sign of a healthy downtown, they say, that the number of visitors exceeds the number of parking spaces, requiring the use of meters to keep order.

Downtown Hialeah, meanwhile, is a nondescript mixture of homes, apartments and mom-and-pop businesses. It is devoid of nightlife, trendy boutiques or tall, shiny office buildings -- all of which would pair nicely with parking meters.

Hialeah's meter-free philosophy could face a test in the next few months, however, when a county courthouse branch opens downtown.

The courthouse is expected to draw up to 1,200 visitors a day, and if they don't all park in the adjacent parking garage as they're supposed to, street parking might become a hot commodity.

Local boosters are unfazed by the lack of meters, or attractions worth metering.

''It's completely overlooked -- the place is a gem,'' lifelong Hialeah resident Ferny Coipel said of his hometown. Coipel, a musician, owns a collection of Hialeah-emblazoned memorabilia that include tablecloths, coasters and a circa-1957 Hialeah Park-theme board game he bought on eBay.

And plenty of free parking.

Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, a Princeton sociology lecturer who has studied Hialeah extensively, was intrigued but not surprised when told of its lack of meters.

''It's a very neighborly type of city. . . . It's like living in a huge extended family,'' she said.

''It's practical. It's about survival. It's about creativity,'' she added, ticking off Hialeah's characteristics. ``It doesn't put on airs. Of course, you wouldn't have parking meters!''

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