Issues We Care About
Policy change is needed to ensure everyone's needs are met; distribute resources equitably; amend or enforce existing laws; and respond to new threats. For Catalyst Miami, the policy issues that take priority are those that are critical to the well-being of Miami-Dade’s low-wealth communities, as well as issues that the community emphasizes are important.
Additionally, we know that enacting change in Miami-Dade will not be possible without simultaneously addressing Miami's long history of racial injustice. South Florida has been built on the exploitation and marginalization of Black and Indigenous people. This has decimated wealth in these populations; for example, the median liquid asset value for Black Miamians is $11 as compared to $10,750 for Whites. It's a matter of life and death: children in Miami's Black communities live 15 fewer years than those in communities just a few miles away. For these reasons, we place racial justice front and center in every aspect of our policy platform.
Through our open and intersectional coalition-building efforts, we bring together our program alumni, community organizations, and other community members to communicate their needs and concerns; ensure proposed policies meet their community priorities; build grassroots leadership; and lay the groundwork for long-term, positive change.
Our collective 2021 local policy goals are:
Create Multiple Benefits through Equitable Climate Action
1. REDUCE ENERGY BILL BURDEN FOR MIAMI-DADE HOUSEHOLDS
Energy burden is defined as spending 6% or more on your income on your monthly electricity bill. Miami's low-income households have an energy burden that is 3x higher than their non-low-income counterparts (ACEEE, 2020). Energy efficiency programs are how we reduce energy burden, and are also the quickest, most cost-effective way to begin to address the climate crisis. They also would undoubtedly assist the almost 61,000 FPL customers who are late on bill payments since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Bring the Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF) to Miami-Dade County, providing safer financing options to low-income households for home improvements that reduce energy costs.
- Expand the County's existing weatherization program to include options to relieve energy burden on low-income renters - for example, by targeting multifamily-building owners that would in turn guarantee rental affordability
2. PREPARE & PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES FROM EXTREME HEAT & FLOODING
Today, Miami-Dade County experiences approximately 77 more days over 90°F than it did in 1970 (Climate Central, 2020). Scientists predict that by 2036, 187 days per year will be over 90°F in Miami-Dade. Our outdoor workers, public transit riders, and households without affordable, accessible air conditioning are disproportionately exposed to the health harms of extreme heat.
- Research and champion local protections for outdoor workers from extreme heat
- Launch a program to provide and require residential window screens to reduce indoor heat and mosquito exposure in Miami-Dade County
- Ensure that heat is included as a hazard in the Miami-Dade County Local Mitigation Strategy to access state BRIC funding
- Ensure that County septic to sewer programs prioritize assistance for low-income homeowners and renters
3. CHAMPION A JUST TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY
Climate justice means that our solutions to the climate crisis must provide multiple benefits to all, and that no subsect of our population should experience disproportionate harm due to the climate crisis. As the climate crisis intensifies, Miami-Dade County’s low-income populations are likely to be disproportionately burdened. We must take bold, swift action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the climate crisis. Given the economic disparity in our community, it is essential for residents to be a part of the solution development.
- Develop a 100% renewable framework and policy for Miami-Dade County that is co-created with the public. The framework should address opportunities to create multiple benefits and lower emissions, such as improved public transit, eliminating disproportionate energy burdens, and small business support in our neighborhoods most heavily impacted by inequities.
Primary Partners: Community Leadership on the Environment Advocacy and Resilience (CLEAR) program alumni, Miami Climate Alliance, The Miami Foundation, Florida International University, Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, Sierra Club Miami Group, Florida Rising, University of Miami Abess Center, WeCount!, TAPARI, The Nature Conservancy, Konscious Kontractors, the CLEO Institute, and Earthjustice.
End Miami-Dade County's Affordable Housing Crisis
1. REDUCE HOUSING COST BURDEN FOR MIAMI-DADE HOUSEHOLDS
Half of Miami-Dade County households are cost-burdened by housing, meaning they pay over 30% of their income on shelter (MHFA, 2020). This crisis has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, as thousands of Miami-Dade County households face foreclosure and eviction. We believe that housing is a human right, and that creating housing stability will lead to improved economic stability in our region.
- Declare an Affordable Housing Crisis
- Implement and create a long-term funding strategy for all recommendations detailed in the Miami-Dade County Affordable Housing Framework
- Prioritize projects targeting 50% AMI and below for County funded and subsidized affordable housing
- Implement an inclusionary zoning policy
2. IMPLEMENT STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE MULTIPLE BENEFITS
It is important to preserve the cultural heritage and historical significance of Miami-Dade's vibrant communities. In preventing community displacement, we can also promote solutions that provide environmental and economic benefits.
- Implement a public land strategy that includes deep community engagement around any potential municipal property sales or leases. In addition, research how funds derived from the sale of County properties can be redirected to address Miami-Dade’s affordable housing crisis, and other critical community needs
- Integrate and incentivize wrap-around social services, weatherization/energy efficiency, and other sustainability measures in new and existing affordable housing complexes in Miami-Dade County.
- Adding community displacement and climate impact analyses or checklists as a required, enforceable component of the Comprehensive Development Master Plan, and of the planning & zoning requirements for new developments in Miami-Dade County
Primary Partners: Housing Equity Advocacy & Leadership (HEAL) program alumni, Community Justice Project, Miami Workers Center, Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida, Miami Climate Alliance, Florida Housing Justice Alliance, Opa-Locka CDC, Konscious Kontractors, Allapattah CDC, SMASH, and Miami Homes for All
Close the Racial Wealth Gap by Achieving Economic Justice
1. INVEST IN LOCAL INITIATIVES THAT BUILD COMMUNITY WEALTH
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, over half of Miami-Dade County households were considered in poverty or the working poor (United Way Miami, 2020). There exists a staggering racial wealth gap in our region, where the median net worth is $107K for White-Americans, $22K for Cuban-Americans, and $3,700 for American-born Blacks (OSU, 2019). It is important to build community wealth and address this disparity head on.
- Provide seed incentives for every M-DCPS kindergartener through the Future Bound Miami college savings account program
- Increase the budget for Community-Based Organization grants, currently at $13M a year
2. ELIMINATE HARMFUL IMPACTS OF FINES & FEES
The inability to pay fines and fees can lead to mounting debt, driver's license suspensions, and jail for our residents. Across the country, millions of Americans get trapped in the justice system simply because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees. We must reform this system to eliminate disproportionate punishment for those solely because they have limited finance.
- End driver's licenses suspensions for non-moving violations, including parking tickets
- Eliminate debt related arrests for failure to appear at debt hearings, which result in incarceration in already overcrowded jails
- Eliminate fines and fee debt for minors
- Institute a remediation program for those who have been harmed by unjust fines and fees without any regard to their ability to pay. Create payment plan that tailors payment amounts to a person's financial abilities, including community service and volunteer programs
- Place caps on allowable revenue from fines and fees
- Support a community ID program
- Provide phone calls at no cost to people who are incarcerated in County jail facilities
- Eliminate the $35 water utility reconnection fee
3. SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS REVITALIZATION
The Beacon Council says it best, "Small businesses are the lifeblood of Miami-Dade County, representing a large portion of the local economy." When we support small local businesses, we are more likely to maintain our community identity, be environmentally friendly, create local jobs, and reinvest in our neighborhoods.
- Refocus economic development policy and initiatives on local small and micro businesses
- Curb over-proliferation of formula retail businesses to ensure that large national chains do not crowd out local small businesses
Primary Partners: Future Bound Miami, Beyond the Bars, Opa-Locka CDC
Reinvest Dollars Saved by Reducing our County Prison Population
1. SAVE MILLIONS THROUGH JAIL DIVERSION PROGRAMS
Miami-Dade County's existing jail diversion programs save the County $6M annually (American Criminal Law Review, 2019). Non-profits like The Alternative Program, saved the County $15M in cost avoidance by presenting alternatives to incarceration. In addition, these programs reunite families, improving economic and social stability at a household level.
- Establish an Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Work Group under the Dade-Miami Criminal Justice Council to reduce the County’s jail population by 25% by April 2022 through investments in public health and social services infrastructure (See Los Angeles County, New York City, and Palm Beach County models)
- Explore the feasibility of a mental health crisis call diversion from law enforcement, for example in Houston and Austin, Texas
- Research the feasibility of a sobering center, providing an appropriate and safe place for people to recover from acute intoxication and receive services for substance use disorders as an alternative to incarceration
- Further invest in the Public Defender's Office Early Representation Unit program, which represents people charged with felonies from first appearance until arraignment to obtain their release from jail
- Similar to the Environmental Education Grants Program, start a departmental grants program for organizations that support community members impacted by the criminal justice system, including transitional housing programs, programs for people who are currently incarcerated, and reentry programs.
Primary Partners: League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, Beyond the Bars, Opa-Locka CDC, Community Justice Project, Dream Defenders, Divest/Invest Miami, WeCount!, Florida Rising, Engage Miami, Miami Workers Center, Florida Housing Justice Alliance, Justice for Miami, and SMASH