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Monday, March 4, 2024

Sweetwater: Old Ways Must Change

For the past 25 years, Sweetwater has belonged to the large population of older residents, and it’s evident in nearly every aspect of life in the small city located just east of the Florida Turnpike. Although the elderly are a valuable part of society, Sweetwater needs to stop ignoring the under-40 group of residents and visitors.

Drive around the City of Sweetwater during business hours and you’ll see at least one private medical van shuttling a throng of elderly people headed to a medical center or one of the city’s hangout spots for the elderly, the Senior Center, or Mas Canosa Youth Center (this youth center mainly holds activities for the elderly, and few youth).

Businesses within one mile of the Sweetwater City hall such as “La Bodega” food market, “Food Star” supermarket, “Sedano’s“, and “Rubidos Cafeteria“, are among those that mainly cater to an elderly customer base. The Sweetwater Trolley, a taxpayer-funded program and a small step forward in public transportation for Sweetwater residents, mainly shuttles the elderly around at no cost, and even goes as far as dropping people off at their homes or waiting for them to get groceries at a local supermarket.

With the average age of a Sweetwater Politician at 63.25 years old, it’s no wonder things in Sweetwater have been changing at a snails pace.

The current roster of commissioners is made up of career politicians elected over and over again by a faithful and small, yet just large enough to win, group of senior citizens that vote via absentee ballot every election.

Most commissioners in Sweetwater have served for at least ten years as a commissioner. Some have served for over two decades. Even with all the scandals in recent years, three commissioners (Barreto, Duasso, Guerra) are vying for re-election and two commissioners (one now Mayor) are in the race for Mayor of Sweetwater (Lopez, Diaz).

There are currently a total of 4 candidates for mayor, and a total of 6 candidates running for three commissioner seats, none of the candidates are younger than 45.

The following are the ages of elected (and non-elected in the case of Catalino Rodriguez) officials currently serving in the City of Sweetwater municipal government:

  • Sweetwater Commissioner Orlando Lopez (D.O.B. 2/21/1968), 47 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner Jose A. Bergouignan, Jr. (D.O.B. 9/26/1963), 51 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner Jose Manuel Guerra (D.O.B. 3/4/1957), 57 years old
  • Sweetwater Mayor (elected Commissioner) Jose Manuel Diaz (D.O.B. 9/3/1956), 58 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner Isolina Maroño (D.O.B. 4/19/1948), 66 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner (not elected) Catalino Rodriguez (D.O.B. 10/28/1944), 70 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner Prisca Barreto (D.O.B. 8/30/1942), 72 years old
  • Sweetwater Commissioner Manuel Duasso (D.O.B. 5/8/1929), 85 years old

(this information was obtained via public records accessible on the internet via flvoters.com and the ages were calculated on age calculator)

With FIU within close proximity to Sweetwater, I expect more young people under 40 to challenge the incumbents that have been in power for so long and bring about fresh new ideas and much needed improvements in the way government connects with people and addresses needs.

Few Entertainment Options

There is very little entertainment or nightlife to offer college-age residents or visitors within the Sweetwater city limits, with the exception of Dolphin Mall, FIU Events, and the weekly Friday Night BBQ event at 109 Tower. With Miami offering nightlife and entertainment destinations like Wynwood, Coconut Grove and South Beach, I don’t expect Sweetwater to compete anytime soon as a major South Florida entertainment spot, but there is a clear need to offer more to young people.

Few Dining Options

There are very few options for dining out in Sweetwater to target the 40 and under crowd. 109 Burger Joint opened recently and is conveniently located across from 109 Tower. Madroños Restaurant is also a good option, as are a few restaurants in the Dolphin Mall area, yet I still find there is a huge void to fill in Sweetwater dining options.

Final Thoughts

In closing, by promoting better engagement with a younger crowd, the local economy in Sweetwater will flourish and in turn, the elderly population will benefit from more funding for elderly services and better government for all who live in Sweetwater.

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