The Miami Herald: We are all Floridians

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As we plow through the conventions and media blitz that leads to the presidential election, I can’t help but marvel at the uniformity of the messaging intended to “Win Florida.” But beyond the trite partisanMad Men-like sell, I must admit that it is oddly refreshing as resident of Miami-Dade to be referred to as a Floridian.

After all, at any other time of year we are more likely to be classified by our country of origin, ethnicity and/or municipality than as Floridians. In fact, when the legislative session begins in Tallahassee soon after the presidential election the very representatives who now speak of “All Floridians” will be the first to remind us that we in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, are different from the rest of the state.

To be fair, we have brought some of this upon ourselves. For many years, as a result of legislative carve-outs, our leaders have aided in and often spearheaded the political fracture. Most recently, for example, there was last session’s proposed legislation for resort gambling, which attempted to circumvent the necessary conversation about the diversification of our state’s economy by geographically limiting gambling to Miami-Dade and Broward counties. It should come as no surprise that when similar statewide issues such as prison privatization, healthcare reform and property insurance disparity arise in Tallahassee that the “not in my backyard” mentality places Tallahassee’s half-baked ideas exclusively in the political petri dish that is South Florida.

And yet when I visit Tallahassee and speak to other elected officials from St. John to Monroe we all have similar concerns. We are all concerned with economic growth; we all agree that, from transportation to education, our state needs to invest in infrastructure. We all share similar frustrations regarding the piecemeal application of reform, the never-ending robbing Peter to pay Paul approach to social -ervice funding and our state’s reluctance to define its short-term and long-term priorities.

But most notability we all complain about the political tourism that plagues our elected officials in Tallahassee, those who are more concerned with their next political position than with the obligations of their current post and the politics of division that gets them elected and, sadly in many cases, re-elected.

So amid the clamor of delegates and the feel-good speeches about the future of our great nation, I hope that those who read this will consider the future of Florida. That as we watch the carefully tailored messages that each side hopes will win them the Sunshine State we will notice that from Tallahassee to Key West the message is the same because we have more in common now than ever, because whether our leaders in Tallahassee recognize it or not, our success is tied to the success of our fellow Floridians.

And despite the popular politics of division, we have more to gain from fostering unity and cooperation, from Winning Florida by acknowledging our common needs and forging a statewide agenda that includes every Floridian, even those of us who live in South Florida.

Raquel Regalado is a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board.

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