Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Lynda Bell presented her first “State of the District Address” on Thursday, Jan. 12, in front of an audience of some 500 in the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) in Cutler Bay.
In attendance were city officials from Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Homestead, as well as residents and student musicians. The 7:30 p.m. program was preceded by a reception at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s very providential having it here [SMDCAC] right after it opened up,” said Commissioner Bell. “It’s the perfect venue and a perfect fit since we’re a big supporter of the arts.”
CBS4 News anchor Eliott Rodriguez served as emcee introducing musical performances by the Greater Miami Youth Symphony Ensemble’s Sarah Busse, Esther Chae and Relyn Myrthil, and the Devon Aire K-8 Center Chorus. Presentation of Colors was provided by the Miami-Dade County Police Honor Guard, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by Tyler Maldonado, Bell’s grandson, and two other grandchildren. Pastor David Cleeland of Christian Fellowship Church gave the invocation.
Bell used the address to highlight her legislative accomplishments thus far, where the county stands today and the challenges ahead.
“Although much has been accomplished during this relatively short time, there are still many objectives to be met and much work needs to be done before they come to fruition,” Bell said. “My friends, we are on the heels of bold reform and change in our county.”
Bell spoke of citizen frustration with government officials at all levels and how people wanted more efficient government that was responsible, transparent, and responsive, all while living within its means.
“During my first two months, I set out to meet with every county department director, which was about 60 at the time, and learn about how the county does its business and how to improve on the principle that you, the residents, are the boss,” Bell told her audience.
“Being appointed chair of the commission’s Internal Management and Fiscal Responsibility Committee, that is the Budget Committee, positioned me to better serve my residents and bring about the bold reforms that they wanted. Spending every penny wisely and not wastefully has been on the top of my list.”
Bell described working with the board to create a line-item budget that is easy to read and accessible to all residents on the county’s website. She also spoke about creating an ethics reform package to restore the public’s trust in government, and tackling other problem areas.
“On your behalf, I voted in the minority to dramatically reduce county spending on lobbyist contracts, worked to shed light on the misclassification of environmentally sensitive lands, and stood with the mayor when I voted to not have a single police officer fired by imposing a 5 percent healthcare contribution,” Bell said. “By doing this I reaffirmed my commitment to keep your taxes low while providing you with the best service possible. We must choose to stand with courage and do what is right over what is easy.”
Bell mentioned working to assist specific residents in overcoming problems that had been previously unsolved, as well as helping to make things better for District 8 residents despite recent cutbacks in funding.
“It is because of the willingness to work together that we have been able to collaborate on all types of projects — from parks, to road improvements, to bike paths, to community engagement. The public works department has been a great partner in success,” Bell said.
“Our office has been consistent in securing funding for numerous District 8 road improvements, beautification and capital projects within the district’s municipalities and unincorporated areas — all totaling $111,066,228 since November of 2010.”
This was in addition to $1.3 million for the development and improvements of local parks, she pointed out, adding that she has visited every park in her district and has seen first-hand the role they play in the community.
Bell acknowledged the late Paul. S. Barrow, Samantha “Jade” Trebbi and Roger Barretto for their contributions to the community, and concluded by saying that there is still much work ahead.
“By working together we will continue to make strides towards a better community, one that represents its people,” Bell said. The event was sponsored by Mercedes- Benz of Cutler Bay, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, Peperoni, Cutler Bay Business Association, Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce, Chamber South and Palmetto Bay Business Association.