Commissioner Eileen Higgins loves to walk. But not necessarily because it’s good for you. In the way doctors dictate. But rather because it’s good for you as someone who presumably likes functioning streets.
She represents District 5, which includes lots of walkways in Little Havana, downtown, Brickell, and South Beach. I don’t have to ask her how she really feels about the construction chaos she consistently quells because she’s pretty blunt:
“The Flagler Street Corridor, which the Florida Department of Transportation has done a really terrible job of implementing that construction project, the planning of it as well as the implementation of it, the delays, the lack of coordination, neglect for storefront owners, residents, and the commuters. I found it pretty unacceptable,” she tells me.
Before I was elected, I could walk on Flagler Street and I could go weeks without seeing anyone working. - Commissioner Eileen Higgins.
“And that led me to try to raise awareness around the issue because it’s hard to do any neighborhood improvement when the main street through your neighborhood is destroyed,” she adds.
The commissioner tells me how she and her team walk the street “practically every day” with the Florida Department of Transport on different sites. “To encourage the contractor to finish more quickly,” she will “point out what I could see was going wrong.” And she sees plenty.
So, she insists on pedestrian crossings and ADA-required wheelchair ramps. And gets media coverage to keep the pressure on.
Ms. Higgins’ attention to detail puts spelling bee champs to shame. She nonchalantly shares how she recently rejected the latest bunch of trees to be planted around her district. She insisted on bigger trees instead - and she got them. She also brought more trash cans onto Flagler Street and new benches at the Miami trolley shelter.
Email Your Commissioner
If you email her team at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can join the East Little Havana Alliance, which she calls “a place where each and every one of us who cares about East Little Havana can come together.”
Her office kicked off its first events, which includes
- Farm Share food giveaway
- health fair in José Martí Park
- health and nutrition counseling with Live Healthy Little Havana, City of Miami, and the ConnectFamilias nonprofit group
Recently, the Big Flagler Cleanup brought some 200 people from Miami High, Miami Dade College to the Miami Marlins to pick up trash in construction zones.This, to let it be known that “construction is done and we’re open for business,” as she says with no small measure of well-earned relief.
Upcoming East Little Havana Alliance Event
Up next, the East Little Havana Alliance will work on maxing out participation in the upcoming census count, particularly for people under the age of forty who historically participate less. As Eileen notes, federal funding is “about $1,400 per person that lives in the county.” Early childhood education programs like Head Start and transportation dollars are also at stake.
She acknowledges the fear some immigrants may have if the census adds a citizenship question. This is a new addition to the census that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering this week. Ms. Higgins assures any individual’s answer would be safeguarded. This also echoes what the U.S. Secretary of Commerce recently said. And she adds that even if you were to skip that one question- “it’s none of their business”- the survey would still be sent for full community funding.
Commissioner Higgins' vision is for the ad hoc East Little Havana Alliance to grow into a permanent neighborhood association facilitating the free flow of ideas between the community and her office.
I’m here to serve. If people have ideas on how to help the neighborhood, that is what our team is here for. - Commissioner Higgins