When Max Martínez submitted his paperwork to become a candidate for the Office of the Mayor of the City of Miami, he knew that he would have to dedicate months to studying and learning from experts about the environmental crisis because of its direct intersection with systemic racism and the rest of the issues currently facing the city.
“We are facing time-sensitive issues that no other city has ever dealt with before and, for years, those issues have been neglected for profit,” says Martínez, who turned 30 in May. “If the City of Miami doesn’t pioneer the fight against the climate crisis, we will become a cautionary tale and a textbook example of a complete failure to prepare. Worst of all, the city’s residents will be the victims of the story.”
After months of attending Zoom meetings and building relationships with groups like Sunrise Movement and Catalyst Miami, Martínez, a Cornell graduate, is advocating for the creation of a City of Miami Civilian Climate Corps, aiming to give thousands of residents well-paid, purposeful, unionized jobs with the goal of restoring the climate and keeping the city strong.
“For once, the City of Miami can’t be behind. The world is watching how we handle the climate crisis, and it’s our job to create the blueprint because we are the first to face the effects. It needs to be used as an opportunity to create a local economy based on clean energy, the needs of the people, and preserving the city for generations to come. The City of Miami needs to lead the way.”
Inspired by one of FDR’s signature New Deal programs during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the modern Civilian Climate Corps is a proposal by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey (D) to employ 1.5 million Americans in 5 years to complete clean energy, climate conservation, and sustainable infrastructure projects, while providing education, training, and career pathways in good union jobs, without discrimination. In light of the issues the city is facing, Martínez sees implementing a CCC in his hometown as a no-brainer first-step towards combating the climate crisis, but also as part of the solution to the affordability crisis.
“My vision is a City of Miami Civilian Climate Corps rooted in equity and equality, giving thousands of people jobs working on projects to protect the city from sea-level rise, retrofitting buildings to improve efficiency, restoring wetlands, installing solar panels, rebuilding after hurricanes, amongst other things, while getting paid a living wage, having access to healthcare and opportunities to continue their career.”
A life-long Democrat, Martínez believes that the neglect of the Black neighborhoods is intentional and embedded in a history of institutionalized segregation across the US, but even more prevalent in the City of Miami, where the effects of the environmental crisis have quickly impacted Black and lower-income communities due to sea-level rise.
“When the National Housing Act was passed in 1934, redlining kept African Americans away from the water, but now that they are on higher land and protected from flooding, developers and politicians feel like they have the right to push them out for profit? 90 years later? Sorry, but I’m not going to let the climate crisis be an excuse to wipe out legacies, displace thousands of families, and gentrify the City of Miami’s Black communities. You can f****** believe that.”
In addition to creating jobs dedicated to restoring the climate and strengthening the community, Martínez also intends on creating space to expedite the effort to pioneer ‘middle-class’ affordable housing by advocating for a vacant-property tax, aimed at stopping landlords from leaving properties empty.
“There is enough land in the City of Miami for every person and their family to live safely, but, once again, politicians and developers have chosen to profit off of the climate crisis and poverty instead of trying to prevent them,” Martínez claims. “For decades, landlords have left communities bare without paying any penalty and those lots and money can both be used to tackle the crisis.”
Martínez, a first-time candidate, believes the City of Miami is at a crucial moment in its history and that it could benefit from a fresh perspective.
“To change the toxic political culture in City Hall, it needs to be shocked, and I want the residents of the City of Miami to know that I am ready and willing to do that to make life better for them. In addition to always keeping the city safe, my number one priority is to end poverty in the City of Miami and I believe I can do it.”