Partnership revs engines in drive to recover from Wilma
By Michael Lewis
A round of applause, please, for civic and government leaders who last week created Partnership for Recovery to eradicate Hurricane Wilma's legacy.
As they did after Hurricane Andrew 13 years before, top leaders countywide have stepped in. Corporations, non-profits and individuals have already contributed a tenth of a $25 million goal that would equal what we raised after Andrew.
We Will Rebuild was born in 1992 to help battered South Dade. Its labors took three years, but its good work is still felt. It makes an admirable model for an equally admirable recovery drive that's just starting.
The entire community rallied to We Will Rebuild. Its work was top of mind week after week as South Dade rebounded. Partnership for Recovery will do well to maintain that high visibility as it seeks $22.5 million more in corporate and individual donations.
Leaders were wise to begin as a non-profit. We Will Rebuild eventually evolved into one. Adherence to a non-profit's operating requirements should retain public confidence.
Significantly, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront, with CEO George Foyo as co-chairman of the partnership. The chamber is in a rebuilding mode after fiscal and administrative turmoil that thankfully has been put to rest as it revives its membership base and its status.
Post-Wilma needs are great. While the disaster, thankfully, is not of the magnitude of Andrew, which threatened to backwater forever what is now a thriving part of the county, Wilma left 5,000 of our families homeless and helpless.
The partnership's first step is to get those families into rental housing and back on their feet.
The longer-term goal is to give developers incentives to build affordable housing, which ranks with education and transportation improvements among our community's most-pressing needs.
While it's early in the process, the partnership should stay together after it finishes its current tasks to become an umbrella group for other teams that are trying to bring affordable housing not just to Wilma's victims but to others in Greater Miami. Resolving the needs of hurricane victims is just the first step in easing our affordable-housing crunch.
A community-wide housing solution is crucial to the well-being not only of those who struggle to find decent places to live near their jobs but to the county's overall economic future. A county where workers cannot live is a county that cannot prosper.
Meanwhile, the partnership must speed aid from its coffers into the hands of those who most need it. Procedures must be set up, banks enlisted, volunteers found and order put to the organization - yet those who lack housing cannot wait.
Spreading efforts among the county's Coalition of Chambers, representing 20,000 businesses, was wise. While leadership of the partnership cannot become unwieldy, the need for willing hands is massive.
We are off to a spectacular start - but it's just the start. Now comes the heavy lifting.