Thriving After Economic Instability
with Bertha Watson Henry, Administrator of Broward County, Florida
"The diversity of Broward County, Florida's population of 1.96 million creates obstacles in providing adequate services. And while this is a challenge, this diversity contributes to making Broward County one of the most appealing places to live, work and play. Bertha Watson Henry, administrator of Broward County, Florida shares how the county has overcome tough fiscal times, and as a result, has led to new industries and development.
Interview recorded November 30, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: After a period of economic instability, Broward County, Florida, is now thriving with new industries and rapid infrastructure development. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Bertha Watson Henry, administrator of Broward County, Florida. She's also being honored as one of 2017 Governing magazine Public Officials of the Year. Bertha, welcome to the program, and congratulations.
Henry: Thank you.
Traynham: So, as I understand it, you have been in public service now for nearly 40 years, if not longer. What inspired you to stay in this work, to keep doing this work from a public-service standpoint
Henry: Well, I grew up watching the activities of the '60s, and it was a tumultuous time.
Henry: And for whatever reason, I just thought I needed to be a part of change. I need to be a part of making our country a better place for all people.
Traynham: And how many years, specifically, have you been --
Henry: It's over 40. Let's leave it at that. Let's leave it at that.
Traynham: The reason why I ask that question that way is because you keep doing it, and it's one thing to get involved in public service, but to stay in it for this long -- which is an admirable, admirable thing, particularly in this day and age when so many people want to leave public service or, quite frankly, are not inspired by it. So that's a wonderful thing.
Henry: Oh, okay. Well, I am definitely inspired, and what makes life good for you is that you can actually see the fruits of your labor. I get up every day. I'm excited. I look around my communities. I started my career in the city of Miami, and I spent some time in Ohio, and everywhere I went, you know, I felt like I could see the outcome of the work that I was involved in, and that just inspires you.
Traynham: Bertha, walk me through, or us through, specifically what you do on a daily basis. Now, as I understand it, you're appointed
Henry: I am appointed. I have nine bosses, so to speak, nine county commissioners. I have a wonderful team of about 6,000 employees, and, every day, it's a new adventure, so we really try to make sure that our community is keeping pace with its growth. South Florida's growing like -- It's very rapid, rapid growth, and the infrastructure to keep up with that is challenging, but it's just something that we -- we strive to do everyday.
"Twenty-five million Americans pay more than half of their income to rent. A discussion with Ali Solis of Make Room
on efforts to give a voice to America's working poor and work toward a collective solution to help our economy thrive.
Interview recorded September 6, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: 11.4 million households in America spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities. And as the nation's population continues to grow, so will the number of overburdened renters. Hello, everyone and welcome to ""Comcast Newsmakers."" I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Ali Solis, president and CEO of Make Room. Ali, welcome to the program. It's always good to see you. Let me start off by stating the obvious -- More and more Americans feel squeezed. They're working harder for less, in terms of what they bring home. As I mentioned a few moments ago, a lot of people -- too many people -- are spending half -- half of their income on utilities and rent. How can this be
Solis: That's right. This is a growing crisis in America, where we have 25 million Americans, eight million children, two million seniors impacted by this crisis. And they are, you know, paying, as you mentioned, more than half of their income to rent. And this is a problem that's growing. By 2025, we expect that we'll have 15 million households.
Traynham: 15 million
Solis: 15 million households, and that's assuming that we can keep pace with rising rents and address --
Solis: Exactly -- rising rents and utilities.
Traynham: So, here is the magic question. How can we -- How do we address this So we know what the problem is. And what's interesting about this dilemma, I find, is that it's not that people are not working. They're working. They're contributing to society. But if they can't keep ends -- They can't make ends meet, what's the solution
Solis: Yeah. Most of these families are working, often, two and three jobs just to make rent affordable. And the problem is not just one that we're seeing in big urban centers, like San Francisco or New York, but it's affecting small towns, small communities. I was just in Erie, Pennsylvania, a place where people wouldn't think that there was an affordable rental crisis, or Detroit, Michigan. So this is a challenge that's impacting communities big and small.
Traynham: You know, Ali, I want to hit pause there for a second, 'cause I think this is really important to stress what you just said. This is not just a New York, San Francisco, Miami, you know, major metropolitan city issue. To your point, Erie, Pennsylvania, some of the rural areas in this country are also being affected by this.
Solis: That's correct.
Traynham: So let's talk a little bit about Make Room, specifically what do you do, and how can you help address this problem
Solis: So, Make Room is a national organization whose purpose is to un-hide this human suffering that's happening behind closed doors for all of these millions of Americans. We're trying to give voice to a population that isn't necessarily well represented. They are the working poor in America. And so we are sharing their stories, and we are asking overburdened renters all across the country to join us through our digital platform to be able to have regular conversations with their policymakers at the local and federal levels.
Traynham: So, you mentioned sharing stories, and for the folks that are watching this at home, or, perhaps, maybe, on their smart device, if you have a story that you would like to share, Ali, how can they do that
Solis: Well, we'd encourage you to go to www.makeroomusa.org and share your story. We provide incentives. We also provide information so that you can meet neighbors in other communities that are struggling with similar stories. And we also have policymakers engaged through the platform, as well, because it's important for them to understand what's happening in these communities. "