Jean Monestime, the new chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, went to the county's largest business group Wednesday to lay out his plan for trying to close Miami-Dade's prosperity gap.
In a luncheon address before the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the second-term commissioner urged his audience to support his efforts to boost home ownership, encourage broader use of public transit and lure businesses to less prosperous parts of the county.
"If you're looking at your bottom line, there are truly some areas that are more attractive to you as business people to open your business," he said during the event at Miami's Jungle Island. "In order to attract you to some of these areas that are not as attractive, I think we need to provide you with more incentives."
In November, the commissioner representing North Miami, Opa-locka and parts of Miami's Liberty City won a behind-the-scenes race against Commissioner Audrey Edmonson to serve as chair of the 13-member panel. Edmonson ultimately bowed out, and Monestime was elected unanimously. Representing one of the commission's poorest districts, Monestime promptly announced a new prosperity task force aimed at tackling income inequality in Miami-Dade.
In his Chamber speech, the registered Democrat in a non-partisan post offered more details on his plans but no information on how he might pay for them. One idea hinted at a new local subsidy for home purchases -- with special help for government workers.
"I think as a community we have not done enough to make sure that young professionals have an opportunity to purchase their first homes," he said.
Monestime said he wanted to address Miami-Dade's so-called brain drain by targeting local residents who leave Miami-Dade to attend college and then are left with the choice of whether to come home to start a career. Miami-Dade already offers home-buying assistance, and Monestime's plan is to expand that program.
"Together with the housing department of Miami-Dade County I'm working on a plan where incentives will be provided to first-time home buyers, especially those graduating college," Monestime said. "An incentive will be provided to those individuals who were born and raised in Miami-Dade County, went out of state to college, and do not want to come here because there is not enough opportunity."
"But If they decide to work in the public sector," he continued, "incentives must be presented to them if they're interested in purchasing their first homes."
He ended his remarks by asking for support. "If you agree with me," Monestime said, "I want you to go all around Miami-Dade and say: 'Chairman Monestime is right."