The program created from the ashes of the McDuffie Riot is under fire.
The Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust wants to end its obligation to conduct a 10-year analysis of the disparity among Miami-Dade’s Black, white and Hispanic populations. MDEAT said it can’t afford the nearly $500,000 needed to execute the 10-year study.
MDEAT’s Executive Director John Dixon asked Commission Chair Audrey Edmonson to bring the request to the board for approval. On July 10, County Commissioners voted 9-0 to jettison the 10-year study.
The vote caught the attention of civil rights organizations and community advocates, who are questioning the mission and effectiveness of MDEAT and point out that much of the same disparities that existed since the late 1970s still exist today.
MDEAT’s own data say so.
After 36 years of studies and report cards, poverty rates for families in predominantly Black communities are still much higher than white and Hispanic families.
First Vice President of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP Darryl Holsendolph, 56, said the unrest and riots were mostly because there was no accounting for deadly police violence in the Black community. The socioeconomic conditions heated up the situation as well.
The McDuffie Riots broke out in 1980 because of the acquittal of all the Miami-Dade police officers who beat salesman and former U.S. Marine Arthur McDuffie to death. Three days of riots, looting and arson led to 18 deaths, 350 injuries and 600 arrests.
“The Black community was not getting their fair share of economic prosperity in this town, county-wide,” Holsendolph said. “We’re sitting at McDuffie temperatures right now.”
The County government took responsibility for the unstable race relations because of the disparity of socioeconomic conditions affecting Black communities.
Born then was the Metro Miami Action Plan to address the prosperity imbalance. MMAP commissioned its first analysis in 1983 and by the 2007-2009 report MMAP became the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust.
Black people made up 24% of total unemployment in 1980 and a staggering 34% in 2005. The 2018 MDEAT report says unemployment was down.
Holsendolph is chairman of the NAACP’s economic development committee and has served on the Miami-Dade Small Business Advisory Committee for seven years.
“I’ve never seen an MDEAT board member [at a meeting],” Holsendolph said.
He criticized the organization’s management, how it operates.
He questions why a program such as Teen Court is under the auspices of an agency created to abolish economic disparities. MDEAT focuses on homeownership, youth empowerment and economic development.
“The leadership is poor,” Holsendolph said. “Teen Court has absolutely nothing to do with economic advocacy. We’re one-fifth of the population but zero of the procurement.”
Procurement is when the County purchases goods and services. Women's participation is at zero too, Holsendolph said.
Holsendolph recommended a review and overhaul of MDEAT and suggested The Children’s Trust should manage Teen Court.
Holsendolph said MDEAT is “part of the problem not solution.” That fault also rests elsewhere.
“It’s not only an indictment of MDEAT; it’s an indictment of elected officials.”
IN DEFENSE OF MDEAT
Chairman of the board of MDEAT Sheldon Edwards said people were misinformed about what would happen if the program stops the 10-year study.
“A lot of people were thinking we were going to get rid of the disparity study looking at economic disparity,” Edwards said. “We look more at community disparity.”
MDEAT leaders say they want to reduce the reporting time from every 10 years to every two, couple with its annual scorecard.
He said economics deals more with contracts while a community disparity study analyzes housing, education and other social services.
“We’re not an organization that controls millions of dollars,” Edwards said. “When you talk about economics and what MDEAT does, we don’t do it on the scale of the county.”
The disparity study cost MDEAT over $200,000 in 2011; it’s more than double that in 2019.
“It costs money to do everything and we will still continue our charge,” Edwards said.
MDEAT runs Teen Court and has for 21 years. MDEAT held its annual Youth Legal Education Summit this week at St. Thomas University School of Law. At least 150 youth, ages 13-18, pre-registered. MDEAT will also hold “First Fridays Economic Development Breakfast Series” on Friday, Aug. 1. There will be another in September.
“Why would I not defend [Teen Court]?” Edwards said. “It helps develop kids and also does summer jobs. Youth empowerment goes with economic development.”
Edwards is a volunteer. He works full-time with Miami Dade College and introduces speakers at the Teen Court event.
“I’m serving on the board not because the mayor or the county asked me to,” Edwards said.
Edmonson proposed the legislation that would remove the 10-year requirement.
“MDEAT are the ones that ask me to put it on the agenda,” Edmonson said. “They do not have the money.”
Edmonson said she would look for money so MDEAT can do a study but did not commit.
“There will be a public hearing during the Housing, Social, Services and Economic Development Committee at 2 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the County Commission Chambers in the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St. Meetings of the Board of County Commission and their committees are also streamed online.
Edmonson formed a committee in January 2019 to study the county –including the government – because the current studies, she said, examine the private sector, which county government has no control over.
“There are rumors I don’t care. Obviously I do care because I did this in January,” Edmonson said. “My committee looks at the county as a whole: race, ethnicity, business, gender. Everything is included.”
“As far as social services, when I see women and minorities are more impoverished than other groups,” Edmonson said, “I do what I need to do. I encourage affordable housing in my district. I’m renovating all of my public housing making it mixed-income so people can live a better life – not just in Liberty Square.”
MDEAT publishes report cards using data collected by FIU’s Metropolitan Center.
“That is not a disparity study. That’s them grading entities in the county,” Edmonson said.
The report cards came after the 2007 publication of “Thirty-Year Retrospective The Status of the Black Community in Miami-Dade,” which used data from 1983 to 2005.
MDEAT’s report cards describe conditions in 17 “Targeted Urban Areas,” which are predominantly Black neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County.
MDEAT looks at jobs/economic development, housing, education and criminal justice.
For 2018, there are increases in income and new businesses and decreases in poverty and unemployment.
There was a decrease in unemployment overall but most predominantly Black areas had unemployment higher than the Miami-Dade County rate of 5.9%.
Three predominantly Black communities increased their number of businesses. But the 2016 report cites 14 predominantly Black communities that lost businesses. The worst losses occurred in Opa-locka with 47 businesses gone; Northwest 183rd Street, 50; and Little Haiti 91.
Homeownership rates dropped in 13 predominantly Black areas, and home values increased in 12 of the 17.