Let’s see if I can do a good job of describing Pablo Canton and all he represents to the City of Miami, especially the area many of us hold dear to our hearts known as Little Havana. He arrived from Cuba with his parents and brother on August 27, 1961. He graduated from La Salle High School and later received a degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami. He joined the ROTC program while at UM with the intention of going to fight for the freedom of Cuba. He received a commission as an infantry second lieutenant, trained as a paratrooper and served in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne unit. He married his wife Mikki a few months after he returned from the war and later graduated in 1977 from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management.
Pablo worked in construction for several years until he joined the City of Miami in 1987 as the city’s Assistant Director of Community Development. Back then, the city did not have a Neighborhood Enhancement Team office, but his department managed the Citizens Response Center which in fact would take complaints from the public and channeled them to the respective departments to solve. The complaints that hit home with Pablo were those of vacant and unsecured structures that turned into “Crack Houses” around the community. These properties were abandoned and used for drugs and prostitution.
Pablo Canton and Code Enforcement
Due to his concern with the dangers of these structures he was transferred to the building department in 1989 as Assistant Director and Code Enforcement Administrator. He gives credit to his excellent staff and their teamwork for increasing the number of cases taken to court which gave the property owners the order to secure their property, fix them or demolish them. Most of these properties were beyond repair and the city ended up implementing a one demolition per day average for the first two years. In addition to code violations he established an excellent working relation with the police department; targeting bars, restaurants and cafeterias involved with drugs and prostitution.
This combination was so effective that the city manager created the NET (Neighborhood Enhancement Teams) in 1992 at which time all code inspectors were reassigned. There were 9 NET offices created and Pablo was assigned to the Little Havana NET. The first Little Havana Net Office was born out of a small office in the city’s police department, then a trailer parked outside of Domino Park, and then the beautiful Warner House.
Pablo Canton and Homelessness
This is a big problem in every city, and we have had our share in the Little Havana area. Pablo would work with his neighborhood resource officers and the City of Miami Homeless Program Department in aiding these individuals who were trespassing on private properties and abandoned buildings. He even went after shopping carts used by the homeless, retrieving those that belonged to the local grocery stores and at the same time aiding the homeless individuals with their needs. This is where he learned that homelessness was in some cases, a personal choice, due to the lifestyle many of these people were choosing to live. You see, in a shelter you need to abide by their rules, be in by a certain time, you can’t use drugs, and you can’t have pets because there are rules and some people prefer to live by their own.
He ended his career with the city in 2012 but kept busy volunteering after being appointed by Mayor Regalado as the Public Engagement Director, helping the Little Havana area and supervising the Calle Ocho Improvement Project. This project installed additional landscaping around the city and new pavers. It made the remodeling of Memorial Park Boulevard on SW. 13th Ave., between Eighth Street and Coral Way possible. An additional plaza was also created on SW 15th Ave between 7th and 8th Street. This project included a collaborative work between local artists to wrap some of the planters and trash containers around the city, along Calle Ocho, with their beautiful artwork.
Pablo Canton and The Roosters
Pablo Canton has had a long history with many of the giant rooster statues you see decorating the Calle Ocho strip these days. These roosters have been stolen, returned, replaced, and preserved all under his supervision. Pablo will tell you that they were inspired by a trip to the Kentucky Derby where they had a large metal rooster silhouette in the City of Louisville and later by the flamingos in Coral Gables. There were 8 roosters commissioned at the beginning of this project. Later on, these roosters multiplied when the artist decided to sell them to different businesses throughout the city. These days he does his part in making sure that the Roosters are not vandalized or damaged by people that choose to ride them like a horse. Pablo came up with a solution to get people to refrain from riding these roosters like live animals. That was to place huge nails horizontally to prevent people from climbing and breaking the fiberglass roosters.
It is never a dull moment when you are with Pablo Canton…
Editor in Chief