In 1982, Miami suffered a convergence of serious community problems, spanning several years:
The Mariel Boatlift where Cuban President Fidel Castro released hundreds of prisoners and ailing health care patients to the Florida coast, without any consultation with the United States.
The Overtown and Liberty City Riots.
The Dadeland Drug Wars on the streets of Miami.
The devasting publicity about Miami from the Time Magazine Cover, "Paradise Lost."
At that time, I was serving as the Chairman of the 30 member Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation. As the crises unfolded, Miami Chamber of Commerce business leaders Alvah Chapman (Miami Herald) and David Blumberg (Planned Development Corporation) stepped forward to create an organization of community leaders called, Miami Citizens Against Crime (MCAC). They asked me to join the MCAC Executive Committee and excluding me, the organization was led by some of South Florida's Best and Brightest.
Among the responses to the mutipile crises was the Presidential appointment of Vice President George Bush to head the U.S. Drug War out of Miami. Working with Florida Governor Bob Graham and the entire Bi-Partisan Dade Delegation, the Legislature gave Miami an extra 1/2 penny sales tax to mount an all out fight against crime within state and local law enforcement agencies. Public Relations genius Hank Meyer led the re-branding of Miami as an International center of trade with the Americas, that still stands today. Miami-Dade County Manager Merritt Steirheim pulled together the substantial local government administration to round out the entire counter attack on crime. The results were real and lasting. Perhaps, most important, these leaders of MCAC regained control of their community an embarked on a re-positioning of a major city.
As I look back over the years, it seems the South Florida community continues its' growth and successes, led among others, by Calle Ocho and the community clusters of international trade,education, law, and medicine. But, I believe the foundation for much of the success was laid by the great Floridians of MCAC some 35 years ago.
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