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A common axiom states “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” and, while that’s a bit harsh, it’s mostly true.  Vision works much the same way.  If you don’t establish, promote, and pursue a vision, you are likely to be subject to someone else’s — an audacious, unsolicited bid to privatize Rickenbacker Causeway and build a cycling track throughout, for example.

The founding of Key Biscayne as an independent village was the fulfillment of a vision for autonomy, greater value, and an improved lifestyle.  It’s a vision that has largely been fulfilled and of which nearly all residents are rightly proud.  But, as we are increasingly being reminded, it’s a vision that may not have gone far enough.  Having our own government with police, fire, and other community services, first-rate facilities, and public spaces is great.  Keeping our millage rate low while doing this is an important accomplishment.  But assuring our island paradise’s long-term excellence is a broader challenge temporally than just this year and perhaps next and a broader challenge spatially than just within our municipal boundaries.

Key Biscayne now faces a set of challenges that necessitate vision and planning long into the future and miles beyond our village.  Vision and planning of this sort is tough on numerous fronts.  We aren’t, as a species, great at predictions and foresight — and even worse at acting upon them.  We tend to believe that we don’t have control, or even much say, about the things outside our community.  It can be hard to justify spending time and money on developing a vision and making plans when there are always more immediate issues.  And it can be difficult to justify looking beyond our borders when so much room for improvement remains within them.

Despite these challenges, our community has taken important actions.  At the last election we authorized our Village government to start considering how to invest up to $100 million on infrastructure and resilience.  Our mayor and Village Council formed a Strategic Vision Board, of which I am a member, and authorized the hiring of a preeminent planning, design, and architecture firm to assist our community in developing a vision and a plan to achieve it.  I wish we would have been swifter and more surefooted on both efforts.  I wish our mayor and others hadn’t been rebuffed by the Council and a handful of naysayers for advocating for greater proactivity in making a bid to operate the Rickenbacker Causeway years ago.  But we have initiated planning and funding and for this we should be proud. 

Our delay and clumsiness, while perhaps unavoidable given the wise design of our system to prevent even mild forms of tyranny, has a cost.  And that cost is before us now with the looming specter of having the causeway that connects our village to the mainland altered in ways that may harm us.  We may end up subject to someone else’s vision and plan because we delayed too long in developing our own.  And to those who would say, “it’s not our place to have a vision and make plans regarding things outside Key Biscayne”, I would answer with a Robert Frost/Virgil mashup.  “Freedom lies in being bold and fortune favors it.”  Beyond being unwise, the sentiment that it’s beyond our purview to have a vision and develop plans outside our boundaries is also clearly false.  The unsolicited bid process that our County allows offers to everyone the opportunity to put forward a vision and plan. Now, someone has done that and now we have been obligated to respond to it or perhaps be subject to it.

I urge our community leaders, both those that have been elected and those that have influence in other ways, to do two things.   One is to respond effectively and with unity to the plans under consideration.   It is imperative that the needs of our community are honored.  We need a safe, reliable, and affordable conduit to and from our community.  We need any changes to the causeway to reduce or eliminate dangerous situations caused by traffic, not aggravate or increase them.  We need the public spaces between our community and the mainland to be protected and improved, not sacrificed.

The second thing I urge our community leaders to do is learn from this.  We could have formulated a vision and made plans for the causeway years ago.  We could have made an unsolicited bid of our own and captured the visionary high ground.   Regardless of the outcome of this current situation, let this be a lesson in the importance of boldness.  Paradise deserves it.   Godspeed.

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