The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is an exclusive exchange program of the US Department of State. It boasts worldwide recognition, as professionals from all around the globe participate. The participants are nominated and selected annually by US embassies around the world.
This year, I was fortunate enough to be nominated under the category of “Youth and Civic Engagement” for IVLP 2019.
The project began in Washington DC on March 9 last year, where the participants explored the roles of the federal government and international bodies, working with youth and civic engagement.
We had the opportunity to visit Miami-Dade County Office of the mayor where we got an overall idea about the county mayor’s Executive Youth Leadership Program and how the mayor’s office works.
Carlos A Gimenez is the mayor of Miami-Dade -- Florida’s most populous county. He is Miami-Dade's highest-ranking elected official and chief administrator, who looks after a metropolitan government with 28,417 employees, an annual budget of approximately USD 7.8 billion, and which serves 2.7 million residents.
Gimenez was re-elected as mayor in 2012 and again in 2016. He carries over 40 years of public service experience.
The mayor’s office has set strategic priorities where public safety is at the top. Quality of life, economic development, transportation, technology, infrastructure and climate change are the other priorities. All of that is reflected in the allocation of the budget. Out of every 1 USD spent, 30 percent is allocated to public safety, infrastructure has 21 percent, transportation 20 percent, health and human services 10 percent, general government 8 percent, recreation and culture 7 percent, economic development 3 percent and policy administration 1 percent.
Citizens know exactly where and how their tax money is being spent.
Initially, the mayor office representative shared a basic presentation with us where they projected the organogram of the office. Interestingly, they placed “County Residents” at the top of the organogram, as they believe the mayor’s office is accountable to the residents of Miami.
As public safety is the most important strategic area, they are committed to having world class police and corrections departments. Community on Patrol is one of the initiatives which will allow the residents to anonymously report tips to the Miami-Dade Police Department Command Centre, upload videos, photos and notes, as well as identify and provide the residential location of sexual offenders, file police reports and commend officers -- all through an app.
Quality of life is one of the key strategic priorities for the mayor’s office. They are committed to maintaining a safe community for the residents and visitors of Miami-Dade County. One project, Liberty City Rising, is an initiative to address the issue of crime and poverty in the area by raising the standard of living for residents and creating opportunities to earn a decent living.
The mayor’s office is adapting to digital trends. The 311 Direct is a mobile app which enables the residents of Miami-Dade County and City of Miami to report neighbourhood problems and code violations to the 311 Contact Centre. Users can attach a photo of the problem, submit relevant details, and choose to either remain anonymous or provide their contact info for a follow-up.
The mayor’s office is very keen to work with the youth. The Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Executive Youth Leadership Program offers university juniors, seniors and graduates the opportunity to interact with local government and get a first-hand look at its operations. The program offers structured workshops and professional mentoring and students can participate in projects focused on their academic objectives.
I saw that when you have set your goal, you know the strategic priorities very well, you know where to allocate the budget and you ensure accountability by placing the residents at the top of the chart, the city dwellers are bound to experience a safer and better standard of living.
As for us, do we know where our taxes are being spent? Are our taxes being spent on a system that effectively combats epidemics like the dengue virus? Are our taxes being spent on developing a proper education system for the youth?