The Downtown Neighbors Alliance

Amal Solh Kabbani

Leading the only independent citizens’ organization in downtown Miami entails, for starters, juggling a full-time job — as a volunteer — with the day job we all have, plus family and social obligations. At the risk of sounding dramatic, taking a minute to ponder our thriving community is a real — and yet necessary — luxury. Necessary because otherwise we are condemned to be reactive, and there’s plenty to react to, but we need also to think about leadership.

An apt definition for the DNA is that of clearinghouse for the myriad issues thirty-thousand residents face in a fast-changing neighborhood. To name just some of these issues: street signage, lights not working in the parks where residents walk their dogs after work, street closures, criminals hiding behind the appearance of the bona fide homeless, unruly boats disrupting the night with noise, policing and creating media awareness. Accordingly, we have the protagonists — be they a new Police Commander or representatives from the Signature Bridge and Formula 1 — come and address these issues before our residents.

Another colorful definition is that of a watchdog. We keep a vigilant eye on our elected officials whose ethics are relentlessly targeted by armies of highly paid lobbyists, and we have proposed and promoted legislation. The DNA has appeared before the Miami City Commission multiple times. Often, these appearances are all-day affairs, after long hours outside under precarious weather conditions. Why? Because the future of our parks, our schools, the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, and our public health are all at stake. The level of noise pollution, for example, causes permanent hearing damage, and if we don’t intervene — physically, intellectually and monetarily, with thousands of dollars in legal fees, we are bound to end up half deaf and with our real estate depreciated.

But the job also includes the promotion of exciting social and cultural events, like Opera in the park and Shakespeare for children, or refitting a street for social gatherings and partnering with other cultural organizations to present forums and salons that foster a sense of neighborhood. We are actively involved in creating the kind of civil society that effective democracies depend on to thrive.

Since its inception in 2013, when our pivotal role prevented the construction of a massive stadium in Museum Park, now the Maurice Ferré Park, the DNA has recognized and supported the pioneering nature of downtown residents (pioneering in the sense that we must have a saying in the shaping of our neighborhood).

As Margaret Mead remarked: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens cans change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Amal Solh Kabbani is the President of the DNA.

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