What happened in 2022? Year in review: Miami

Fireworks ignite after the clock strikes midnight at Bayfront Park on Jan. 1, 2023. Photo credit: Patrick Mccaslin

As 2022 began, COVID-19 unexpectedly surged back into students’ lives. A product of the Omicron variant, the first month of the year warranted the question: will things ever return to normal?

As the Orange dropped in Bayfront Park, counting off the last seconds of 2022, Miami and Florida had shed nearly all masking mandates, reopened streets and dissolved most remaining pandemic-era restrictions.

Yet, day-to-day life in Miami now warrants new questions: what will be the new name for FTX Arena? What is the future of abortion in Florida? When will the state recover from Hurricane Ian, and what is in store for Miami?

For those seeking the answers, this compilation provides the questions. What happened in Miami this year?

Roe v. Wade falls

Several days after the draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May, the National Organization of Women at UM organized a rally alongside other women’s rights groups. Dr. Louise Davidson-Schmich, a professor of political science, addressed the rally from the stage on Lakeside Patio.

“The research shows us really clearly, abortion doesn’t stop, but it becomes less safe,” Davidson-Schmich said. “People’s lives and people’s health are going to be at risk.”

Later, in June, 2022, the Supreme Court precedent which legalized access to abortions was formally overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many states soon banned abortions entirely, while others will depend on the decisions of the officials elected in the 2022 U.S, Midterms.

Those in Miami, Fla. may receive an abortion up to 15 weeks and six days. After that, the only exceptions are in cases where the person’s health is at serious risk or the fetus is not expected to survive the pregnancy.

Read two perspectives from The Miami Hurricane here and here.

Hurricane Ian and other big storms strike

During the finale of the rainy season, UM students got their annual taste of Miami’s subtropical climate. Viral videos of Ferraris plowing through rain like submarines, clubgoers dancing with a few inches of water on the floor and residents kayaking down their street gave a laugh. At the same time, these clips showed that Miami will be vulnerable to the increasing threats of storm surges and flooding due to rising ocean levels.

Some students complained about their commute through inches of rain and soaked treks to class.

Junior real estate major Olivia Klinzmann lamented UM’s delay in cancelling in-person classes as she contemplated her commute home.

“They should have took action before instead of right in the middle of a storm to make students more safe,” Klizmann said.

On the other coast of Florida, in late September, Hurricane Ian decimated the cities of Cape Coral, Fla. and Fort Myers, Fla. The category 4 hurricane dumped 20 inches of rain and brought an estimated 18 feet of storm surge. Some residents lost their loved ones, homes, vehicles or boats.

“I saw pictures of probably three feet, four feet of water in our garage,” said sophomore nursing major Sadie Collins, a Fort Myers native, shortly after the storm. “At that point, I was getting kind of scared and nervous and trying to text and call my family but no response.”

The community is slowly recovering as cleanup efforts continue through the new year.

A month later, Hurricane Nicole made landfall on Florida’s east coast, steadily crossing the state to the area affected by Hurricane Ian before moving north as a tropical depression.

Read more from The Miami Hurricane here.

Students loans remain paused

Since President Joe Biden’s first day in office, student loan repayment has remained paused, both on the principal and interest. This will remain the case until at least Aug. 29, 2023.

“Capping the interest rates is super important because one of the big issues with student debt is not the principal that’s taken out,” said Calla Hummel, an assistant professor in the University of Miami’s department of political science. “Interest ends up really complicating people’s attempts to pay back the debt and often actually being a much larger burden, rather than the principal over the lifetime of the loan”

In the meantime, Biden has also issued a student loan forgiveness program. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 26 million people filed for forgiveness, with 16 million being approved. Before the program can grant funds, the Supreme Court of the U.S. must evaluate the legality of such a decision later this year.

New UM stadium stirs controversy

Founder of MSP Recovery and UM alumnus John Ruiz and his son, UM alumnus Johnny Ruiz Jr. continued to develop plans to build a Hurricane’s football stadium at Tropical Park in addition to several other facilities for the community.

“Tropical Park really provides a suitable location because we’re not just looking for a stadium,” Ruiz said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane in Feb. 2022. “There are a lot of other aspects to what becomes very favorable for the community as a whole. A lot of the Dade-County schools don’t have football fields.”

In late Aug. 2022, Ruiz Jr. tweeted concepts of the renovated park, developed by himself, HKS Architects, Ruiz and Alex Ruiz, also a UM alumnus and son of John Ruiz. The park, located in the center of MDC in Olympia Heights, Fla. would be renamed to “LifeWallet Park.”

Currently the commute from UM’s Coral Gables Campus to Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes home football stadium, lasts at least 40 minutes.

Save Tropical Park, a Miami-based nonprofit, currently runs an Instagram page and petition protesting a UM stadium in Tropical Park.

Read more from The Miami Hurricane here.

FTX collapses

FTX is a name well-known throughout Miami-Dade County (MDC) and in the cryptocurrency industry. In Miami, it holds the naming rights to the arena where the Miami HEAT play: FTX Arena. Elsewhere, it holds the reputation of a now defunct cryptocurrency exchange firm.

In June, 2021, the arena’s name officially changed from American Airlines Arena to FTX Arena, a reflection of Miami’s shift towards tech.

In early November, according to a statement released by the Miami HEAT and MDC on Nov. 11, 2022, FTX would lose the naming rights to the arena. This was the same day as FTX publicly declared bankruptcy.

“The reports about FTX and its affiliates are extremely disappointing,” the Miami HEAT and MDC said in the Nov. 11 joint statement.

As the Miami HEAT and MDC seek a new partner to award naming rights for the arena, UM students weighed in with their suggestions.

“Publix would be my pick, since it’s a name everyone knows and the name would have a nice ring to it,” said Elliot Farr, a sophomore majoring in legal studies.

Read more from The Miami Hurricane here.