Numbers Don’t Lie, What a Lie!
Amal Solh Kabbani
The expression It’s the economy, stupid! doesn’t seem to apply in Downtown Miami. Downtown residents and businesses represent the highest tax base of the entire city, yet it receives the least attention. “It’s all politics here,” argued one resident, producing a graph for the last City Commission election. The downtown vote was dismal. The joke goes that one building had four votes and they all came from the same apartment.
But the dismal turnout might be symptomatic of a vicious circle. Candidates dismiss downtown, hardly devoting any effort to assess its needs, and such disinterest is reflected on election day. Consequently, elected officials neglect downtown, and the electoral statistics discourage qualified downtown residents considering a run for office.
Both these neglectful and defeatist attitudes are based on assumptions: people don’t vote, most downtown residents are young renters who don’t care…
If we are to have a degree of certainty, however, we must start by conducting a needs assessment survey of downtown residents, and have independent professionals conduct an opinion poll of downtown registered voters (broken down demographically.) Residents need to be polled about the incumbent’s satisfactory/unsatisfactory performance regarding issues that matter to them.
The inability to connect with young constituents, the majority in downtown, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Local bars such as Lost Boy get packed with young crowds. Sure, it’s about drinking, and my place or yours, but also about society, politics… If ideas — more affordable housing, better-paying jobs, college debt… exciting and safe parks and streets, climate resilience or transit — resonate with this elusive segment, it will be a formidable force.
“I don’t want to sound sexist,” a downtown stakeholder prefaced an opinion, “but it’s high time to change the testosterone and ego-driven politicking. Women make up 50 percent of registered voters in Miami, and not one single woman serves in the City Commission.”
For the last electoral cycle, District 2 had 41,566 registered voters. Ken Russell won by 1,174 votes. Since the 2015 election, District 2, which includes downtown, has seen the number of registered voters increase 27 percent to 53.3 thousand. Just these newly 11. 7 thousand registered voters can elect a commissioner, and then some. Ken Russell received a grand total of 2,707 votes.
While past electoral performance can be misleading, a better assessment can empower qualified residents to run for office, and give leverage to community organizations like the DNA to really influence our current elected officials who might be misinforming their political instincts with mere electoral data.
Amal Solh Kabbani is a business executive, founder of the Magic City Opera and President of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance, DNA.
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