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Miami-Dade County Planning Division wins Best Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Workplace award

Miami-Dade County Planning Division wins Best Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Workplace award

Miami-Dade County Planning Division wins Best Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Workplace award

The Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources’ Planning Division wins Best Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Workplace award for 2023, presented by the American Planning Association (APA), Florida Chapter. The award recognizes organizations that are engaged in the planning profession in Florida and demonstrate achievement and commitment to expanding equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession.

The Planning Division’s standards for inclusivity are at the forefront of every major decision practice and action made. It is exemplified through its employee demographic, hiring process, and forward-thinking approach to planning and historic preservation practices. The Planning Division is comprised of twenty-nine full-time employees led by Assistant Director Jerry Bell. The employees are equal parts male and female. They are also representative of the minority communities that can be found in Miami-Dade County including Black/African Americans, Latino/Hispanics, Asian Americans, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

To ensure an equitable hiring process, Planning takes the necessary steps to ensure that interview panels are diverse in ethnicity and balanced by gender. They also provide a process for candidates to receive veterans’ preference, as applicable.

Historically, in Miami-Dade County, like many other places in the United States, planning and zoning policies established and perpetuated systems of discrimination and racism that swayed in the favor of White America. As public servants, they work to dismantle systemic racism and incorporate new solutions into the workplace as part of the day‐to‐day conversation and goals. 

In an effort to implement change, Planning’s Office of Historic Preservation conducted a countywide audit of County-designated historic sites to ascertain what level of diverse representation was included in the designations. Not surprisingly, reflective of state and national trends, the designated sites were not reflective of County demographics and history.  For example, Miami-Dade County is 70 percent Latinx, and only one percent of designated sites reflect this heritage. This data audit led to a broader discussion, prompting staff to undertake a deep research dive into the history of policies and how they can implement change. These analyses informed staff-developed proposals on how to evaluate the County’s existing land use and development services policies and standards to integrate equity audits and standards; all in the hopes of addressing the disconnect between the communities in which they work and the stories that the historically designated sites tell. 

Although some of the old policies are no longer in place, they continue to resonate through the County’s communities in the way of ongoing economic disinvestment, disparate economic educational outcomes, environmental justice, and public health issues.  

Planning’s approach is to continue to engage and tell the multi-layered stories of our communities, particularly those that have been historically excluded. Essential strategies include internal training, community outreach, events, social media and engagement.

In Feb. 2021, RER Planning provided training to the quasi-judicial Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Board, detailing the history of formal historic preservation efforts in the US and its traditional focus on architecture associated with wealthy White males. It also provided statistics on representation in the field and the data audit performed by staff.

The accomplishments of RER-Planning led to a significant allocation of funding from the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners to fund a much-needed countywide historic resource survey. This is the first countywide survey undertaken by Miami-Dade since 1980. This survey, with promotional materials and response forms made available in English, Spanish and Creole, focuses on identifying resources that are facing significant planning challenges. This survey is ongoing. 

The Planning Division continues to make a difference for the people of Miami‐Dade County and serve as a model for other local and national planning offices.

Their hard work and tenacity have not gone unnoticed, and they will be recognized at the APA 2023 Leadership Awards Ceremony on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel. 

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