[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Miami: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Miami: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

I could have written this article even without the supporting data, but here are the results of a Zogby poll on how Americans view Miami. I couldn't agree more with pretty much everything.

Brief commentary following the full article.
Poll: Miami Haters Don't Know The Place

By: Andres Viglucci
Herald Staff Reporter

Here in a nutshell is what most Americans think of our town, according to prominent pollster John Zogby: Miami, not so nice.

Sure, it has sun'n'fun, beaches and tourism, respondents told Zogby. But there's also lots of crime, hurricanes, public corruption, racial and ethnic tension, overpriced housing and illegal immigration, they said.

D-uh.

What Americans don't know about Miami may be the real news, said Zogby, who recently opened a local office of Zogby International and says he's bullish on the city.

About half the survey's respondents have never been here. Of those who have, most haven't been in the area for five years or more. In many cases, a quarter or more didn't know enough about Miami to answer a question. Very few were aware of Miami's principal cultural or entertainment events.

And they ranked illegal activities like drug trafficking and prostitution as the second most important economic sector after tourism. (Tourism is still big, of course, but far outsripped in the aggregate by professional and financial services, education, health care, transportation, trade and finance, according to various studies. As for crime, it's way, way down, and cocaine cowboys are old hat).

What all that suggests, Zogby said, is that public perceptions of the city are somewhat dated, and still shaped to a large degree by stale news and popular entertainment like Miami Vice and CSI: Miami.

''People know there is a Miami, but there is a time warp,'' Zogby said in an interview. ``We found anywhere from confusion to a lack of knowledge. It's not understood that it's a global business center, the 42nd largest metro area in the world. It just means Miami has to get its story out better.''

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who said he asked Zogby for the pro-bono survey, agreed.

''We may all think locally we've made advances, but clearly there are some issues that still linger out there, where the reality may be different, but perception remains the same,'' Diaz said. ``That's something we have to deal with.''

Still, some popular perceptions of Miami appear based on solid information -- high housing costs, for one, and the persistence of crime, which hasn't exactly gone away.

And whether accurate or not, those perceptions may have real consequences, a survey summary -- posted Thursday at www.zogby.com -- suggests.

Only 6 percent of respondents opted for Miami as a place to visit among eight major cities, including New York (17 percent), San Francisco (19 percent) and Orlando (14 percent).

Miami ranked last on the list as a place people would move to; it was chosen by just 3 percent of respondents.

About half the respondents had an unfavorable view of the city, compared to about 43 percent who were upbeat about it. Only one-third rated the quality of life here as good. And fewer than 1 in 10 rated Miami as a good place to raise a family.

But there was some gilding in the survey. About half of respondents in business regard Miami as an excellent or good place for doing business.

And 55 percent rated Miami as good or excellent for young single adults.

''Young people are enthused about Miami, which bodes well for the city,'' Diaz said.

Zogby conducted the online survey of 7,106 adults across the country both to help drum up business and as a public service. The interactive online survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points, was conducted Jan. 18-21.

''If Miami is misperceived, and leaders want to do something about that, the best place to start is with some data,'' Zogby said. ``Perhaps Miami needs some kind of rebranding -- the new Miami, the global city, where maybe people are thinking of Miami 25 years ago.''

Diaz said he will make sure that happens.

''There is definitely some strategy that will come out of this,'' Diaz said, adding that he has already met with business and civic leaders to outline the survey findings. ``I am looking for the business community to step up.''

If it happens, it would be the answer for prayers at the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's tax-funded business-development organization. Its leaders have complained about the paltry $1 million the county spends on marketing Miami as a business place, compared to $23 million in Atlanta and $10 million in Toledo, Ohio.

For one thing, Beacon Council president Frank Nero said, respondents who rated job prospects in Miami poorly seem unaware of its diversified economy and the fact that the local unemployment rate is lower than Florida's and the country's. A recent study found South Florida is home to 1,200 multinational corporations with more than $200 billion in revenue, he said.

''We have to be mindful of what the respondents are saying,'' Nero said. ``It's no wonder. People still don't know about this city.''

Frankly, South Florida promoters put way too much emphasis on fun, sun and more fun. Sure, those things are great and NEED to be advertised, but man can't live on those two things alone. It's way past time for Miami to be promoted as an international, diverse region (that's right, region) where people actually lead normal, successful lives. I know, it's hard to believe that normal people actually live here, but those who think Miami is all fluff and no stuff need to turn off the TV or take the McArthur Causeway mainland-bound every once in a while. A place where (gasp!!) many families decide to raise their children because of the diverse cultural opportunities available. A place where people attend church, enroll their kids in the Boy/Girl Scouts and Little League sports. Absolutely shocking!

Here's another shocker: Orlando has a higher crime rate than Miami, yet ranked more favorably in the poll.

The negatives should never be discounted or ignored, but neither should the positives, and neither should the fact that there are many people who actually LIKE living here. A more diverse PR campaign is needed. For example, how about promoting the Miami area as a place where more Hispanic and African-American children take college-level Advanced Placement classes in high school than any other metro area in the country? Can anyone argue the significance of that?

10 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

Sure, it has sun'n'fun, beaches and tourism, respondents told Zogby. But there's also lots of crime, hurricanes, public corruption, racial and ethnic tension, overpriced housing and illegal immigration, they said.

Okay, so what part of what the respondents think is NOT true? Of course, it's ALL true, it's just that the positive aspects of Miami, and there are some, are not emphasized enough.

Ask any resident of SoFla (who qualifies as "normal," by the way?) why they live in SoFla and 8 times out of 10 they'll tell you "the weather." If I had a nickel for how many times I heard that from South Floridians over at SotP when I started ranting on South Florida, I could retire today. Even residents can't get past that being the predominant reason for staying and you want politicians to market us as the place where "more Hispanic and African-American children take college-level Advanced Placement classes in high school than any other metro area in the country?" Good luck, Robert.

I know you love this place, but it really does have some big problems. We shouldn't ignore them or scold the people who recognize them nor should we say that outsiders perceptions are misguided or distorted.

What we need to do is figure out what causes people to feel the way they do and then try to reverse it.

.

2:41 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

I know you love this place, but it really does have some big problems. We shouldn't ignore them or scold the people who recognize them nor should we say that outsiders perceptions are misguided or distorted.

I think I made this point very clear, at least twice. I just thought it was amazing that about half of the respondents have never been to Miami. In other words, they think Miami sucks, but have never stepped foot in the place. The article rightly calls out those people. I mean, that just screams for ridicule.

You know, this might sound strange, but in my darker moments I almost wished Miami's weather was more like Charleston, SC or coastal North Carolina. In other words, cold and dreary in the winter. Then perhaps those 8 of 10 who live here for the weather and complain about everything else would have to make a decision as to whether make a real investment in our community and establish roots, or find another subtropical metropolis to live in. Whining without action is just whining. If you had to take a poll, how many people you think are truly interested in reversing our problems? This is a free country, and people can whine all they want, but I also have the right to call them out if they're not contributing to the solution.

I am a product of this community. Unlike those people who took the poll, I know its strengths and weaknesses. What's wrong with promoting something besides fun and sun? Sure, those things are a draw and ought to be promoted, but we're not all a bunch of empty-headed morons who live from party to party. That's the point I'm trying to make. Why NOT promote the success of minorities in some of our schools? We're going to attract more minorities than anything else, because of our demographics. Let's market our strenghts in that area. Makes sense to me. What would you promote besides fun and sun?

It's obvious that we do a poor job of promoting our strenghts. The article points this out, and the fact that I have to point these things out every time I do a post of this nature just reinforces the fact that our civic spirit is deplorably poor.

Positive attitudes lead to positive changes, don't you think?

3:21 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Rick said...

Well, I'm not necessarily sure people have to visit somewhere to have an opinion of it. I've never visited Alaska but I see it as a backwoods kind of place, with lots of guys wearing flannel and boots in the winter. I think the primary purpose of the survey was to find out what perceptions are being generated not to definitively or accurately paint the area as this way or that way. But, again, I have to point out that the respondent's perceptions that "there's also lots of crime, hurricanes, public corruption, racial and ethnic tension, overpriced housing and illegal immigration," are pretty darn accurate.

Personally, I feel the diverseness of SoFla is a huge asset and should be marketed as such. I also think it's position as a gateway to the Caribbean and Central and South America could also be exploited. Both in business and tourism.

Let's face it: the weather is a big deal in the winter. There's nothing wrong with using that but it shouldn't be the biggest and best thing out there.

I think there's more than enough positivity in the City Halls of SoFla. But we have all these problems that need taken care of. Smiles and thumbs ups only go so far.

.

10:00 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger George L. Moneo said...

Rick, it's assholes like you, constantly beating the negative drum about Miami, that causes our fair city to be viewed the way it is around the country. You, like many others who live here, unjustly malign the place while reaping a benefit from it. If you don't like it, leave. We were just fine before you darkened our town and we'll be just fine after the door hits your ass on the way out. Just shut up already.

11:53 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I think the press, and not just in the USA, is heavily responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes about Miami. It's a vicious cycle. Bad events here are interpreted as confirming outsiders' negative views of the place. Good events are ignored. When I travel I often meet people whose opinions about Miami are still mainly shaped by Miami Vice and old media hype about crime and hurricanes. If a few European tourists get mugged here it becomes the excuse for self-perpetuating hysteria campaigns in their press. But if Muslim "youths" routinely torch cars and beat up Jews in Paris, or the violent assault rate in the UK is much higher than it is here, it rarely makes the papers, because such facts don't conform to media stereotypes.

Once such stereotypes are in place it takes a long time to dislodge them. Miami can promote itself as a business hub for the next ten years, but the first hurricane or big crime story will get hyped by the press and will undo all of the good work. This has happened repeatedly since the '80s.

12:44 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Rick said...

You can always count on George for intelligent, insightful commentary.

Miami Vice, big hurricanes, tourist crime and all the other negatives, will always be part of the South Florida persona. The trick is to make the positives influence people's perceptions even more.

NYC is supposedly full of rude people, dirty subways, and mobsters, but people still visit there by the millions and want to live there because everything else it offers.

.

9:30 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Miami Vice, big hurricanes, tourist crime and all the other negatives, will always be part of the South Florida persona. The trick is to make the positives influence people's perceptions even more.

NYC is supposedly full of rude people, dirty subways, and mobsters, but people still visit there by the millions and want to live there because everything else it offers.


Rick, you are exactly right. You essentially made my point. The only way to positively influence people is by pointing out the positives and working on the negatives. You don't hear NYC promoters tout the negatives perceptions you mentioned. Miami needs to do a much better job of marketing itself.

9:58 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes, that we can agree on.

Although some narrow-minded people like George will forever feel like we did SoFla a disservice at SotP, I'd like to think that by making liberal use of Miami Fever's photos and promoting some of South Florida's events, before and after the fact with photo essays, we were able to highlight some of the area's beauty and positive qualities.

Yes, we had a lot to say about what was wrong with this place, but to ignore those things helps nothing.

.

10:54 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger George L. Moneo said...

Sod off, Rick.

9:51 PM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Jackson Wallace said...

I'm a resident of Seattle and I've been to Ft Lauderdale once during college, and it was a hole, but I understand that its not Miami. I'm sure Miami is a great place to be in the fashion biz, or do business with Latin America, but are there any tech opportunities there? Is it just a party, like Cancun or Scottsdale that can be visited and left? Seems to me to be a dead ex-fashion scene there, and the rich beautiful people fawning over athletes, spare me. Doesnt seem to be a tremendously brilliant place, but it does have great architecture for a US city, and the Winter music Conference. Thats my biggest draw. Seems like the debacle of Florida RE could consume all, though. Stupid old white people not educating millions of minorities turning into criminal lowlifes. Seems a bit too bonkers to want to live there, but it all depends on the the money. Miami is like LA, even money cant stop you from being carjacked by a pro. That's when its really not worth it. America blows, face it. Too many guns compared to France, or Aruba, or Spain. MEH.

5:25 AM, June 19, 2008  

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