FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ripping Off Miami’s Poor

The outstanding investigative series by The Miami Herald discloses flagrant and rampant abuse of funding meant to benefit the poor–primarily African Americans–through the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, a nonprofit founded to help create jobs in Miami-Dade County’s poorest neighborhoods.

The series amplifies “The House of Lies” by the Herald, which garnered a Pulitzer prize and focused on fraud and corruption at the Miami Dade Housing Agency.

A question arises: if it is not simple incompetence, corruption or ignorance that has victimized poor African Americans in Miami time and again, under the rubric of government supervision, what is it?

Again, as with the Miami Dade Housing Agency scandal, the arm’s length pushback by County Manager George Burgess is telling. Given the implosion of the Miami Dade Housing Authority–and his office’s failure to anticipate the problems–you have to wonder what is at work when he notes as “odd”, the dual roles of the former trust president, Bryan Finnie at the same time head of the county’s Office of Community and Economic Development.

Here is what I think is at work, and I’ve written about it before in context of the ‘hands-off’ treatment of the county housing agency that led to the “House of Lies”: the Cuban American majority on the county commission, dominated by Natacha Seijas, has made its deal with African American leaders– we’ll give you a piece of the action and won’t bother you in Overtown and Liberty City, so long as you vote our way on issues that are important to us, like zoning changes in farmland that benefit our primary political base, the Latin Builders Association and associated land speculators and production home builders.

It is scarcely a secret, for instance, that Sandy Walker, lobbyist and sister of African American county commissioner (charged with fraud in connection with a loan from the Empowerment Trust) Barbara Jordan, has been a prime mover in zoning changes in Homestead and Florida City, where their brother is mayor–the area of the county that was fastest growing until the building boom crashed in cinders.

Power is based, largely, on perception. It would be helpful for The Miami Herald to do more to clarify these matters, in connection with political power in which the interests of leveling the playing field for the poor are continually trampled underneath the stampede for wealth. This is not just a matter of ethical concern. In fact, the future economic viability of Miami–aside from as a playground for the wealthy–is at stake.

There should be no sacred cows when it comes to making these points clear: that solving the vast inequities in Miami Dade county is essential to a prospering region.

We have written extensively how Miami Dade county is the power base for former Governor Jeb Bush.

The base is defined, mainly, by developers and land speculators who have invested millions in farmland–much of it outside the Urban Development Boundary in anticipation of zoning changes and compliance with state mandates for land use planning.

One of Bush’s key Miami Dade loyalists, charged with coralling interests on behalf of that base, is Rodney Barreto–a former Miami policeman who became very wealthy as one of the lobbyists at the top of the county food chain. Barreto is also a developer and partner in speculative land investments outside the Urban Development Boundary. (As chairman of the Florida Wildlife Commission, his biography notes he chaired the 62nd annual US Conference of Mayors among other blue-chip achievements.)

It is telling that Barreto turns up in the Herald investigation as the only Cuban American to have taken a piece of the Empowerment Trust pie, in the African American community. (It’s a shame that the Herald reporters did not disclose how much of a profit Barreto took down, after repaying the loan–for which the Trust failed to secure a mortgage–for a piece of property in the Wynwood neighborhood. That number will emerge, in time.)

The chairman of the board of the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, T. Willard Fair, is the one leader in the African American community who planted his flag, squarely, on the Republican political territory of Governor Jeb Bush.

Fair was a Bush appointee to the Florida State Board of Education and co-founder, with Jeb, of the Liberty Center Charter School, the first charter school organized in the State of Florida.

On April 1, 2007, the St. Petersburg Times ran a trenchant opinion piece on the charter school movement in Florida: “A decade after creating its first publicly funded charter school, Florida has turned a worthy educational experiment into a blank check for eager entrepreneurs. As a new report by the Orlando Sentinel suggests, the push for quantity has supplanted the pursuit of quality. And the students are the ones who suffer.

Just ask Don Gaetz, a Republican freshman senator and former Okaloosa school superintendent, about the transformation. “Charter schools were a movement,” he told the Sentinel, “but now charter schools are an industry. They have lobbyists – they walk around in thousand-dollar suits, some of them” … The sad reality is that because Florida has put more ahead of better, no one can say with clear authority just how well the students in charter schools are being served. In a state that so assiduously measures how each education dollar is invested and how each public school student performs, that’s simply unacceptable.”

But it is more than unacceptable.

You see, the frenzy of privatization and outsourcing–one of the mantras of Jeb Bush’s tenure as governor (and, by no small coincidence, of the Bush White House in the performance of the federal government)–turns out to be a mean-spirited opportunity for personal gain and political power wrapped in a silken promise. That’s the theme that runs through the Empowerment Trust scandal like a riptide.

When push comes to shove in the poorest parts of America, and especially where political power grows from scarcely concealed graft mixed with political gain, the results are clear as day. It’s a tragedy and a tragedy for Miami. And that is an opinion you won’t read in The Miami Herald.

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.

 

More articles by:

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail