After a series of front-page stories from The Miami Times and its “Word on the Street” columns, Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmondson and her colleague Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava have answered the call to confront the injustices that have befallen MMAP/MDEAT over the last 25 years.
In a stunning reversal of policy direction, Edmonson withdrew a controversial ordinance change that would have discontinued a crucial 10-year disparity study that shows how Blacks are being impacted throughout Miami-Dade County. In its place, the chairwoman has introduced powerful legislation that directs County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to identify the cost and funding source(s) necessary to implement the 10-year study, and to ensure that the resources are secured in time for the disparity report’s due date in 2021.
In an eye-opening opinion-editorial to The Miami Times, written by County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and published in last week’s edition of the paper, she took a clear policy position on how she plans to work with the Black community. In her piece, Levine Cava confronted the County’s pattern of underfunding MMAP/MDEAT’s programs and priorities and called for the reinstatement of the 8% Local Business Tax Receipt fund that was stripped from MMAP and reassigned to the Beacon Council to, supposedly, carry out the same scope of work. Levine Cava has announced her candidacy for Miami-Dade mayor amongst a growing list of veteran politicians, including former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, and former Miami Mayor and current County Commissioner Xavier Suarez.
Currently, there seems to be no greater advocates for disparity reform in politics and economics than Edmonson and Levine Cava. Edmondson took a major first step in righting the ship by introducing legislation to find funding for the study. And in Levine Cava’s spirited editorial, she mentioned her efforts to install a new two-year disparity study interval, citing that 10-years may be too long in between to find out what’s really going on in the trenches. She has a point. But wouldn’t the best use of a 10-year study be one that coincides with the U.S. Census survey? And even if she’s adamant on shortening the study interval, what the Board of County Commissioners should do on Sept. 9 is create markers in the MMAP/MDEAT disparity study so that it evaluates the county’s Public Housing and Community Development (PHCD) Department’s five-year Consolidated Plan. This way, the study becomes a de facto scorecard of U.S. HUD programs and dollars while also focusing on procurement, housing, business, education and criminal justice. When Levine Cava talks about returning the 8% tax receipt fund to MMAP/MDEAT, its rightful owner, she shows that she has the right ideas in her platform. But only legislative action can bake that cake.
There won’t be much to celebrate if MMAP/MDEAT is restored with resources and authority while agencies like The Alternative Programs (TAP) initiative is left for dead. As I stated in my last column, TAP was the “other” electric counter to profound disenfranchisement of Blacks in Miami after the McDuffie riots. TAP’s revenue-generating model creates millions in return to Miami-Dade County, yet the agency only receives crumbs of what it generates – similar to a pimp taking a prostitute’s earning. While the agency struggles, thousands of low-income, non-violent offenders, who could have benefitted from the program’s services, were disenfranchised because of underfunding and staff shortages, costing the County millions in the process. You read that right: If a machine makes money for you by the number of people it helps, then the lower the number of people helped, the less money you make. And yes, that means the more people that TAP helps, the more money the County makes. So, it’s deeply troubling to think that someone is actually rejecting revenue to discourage the continuation of an agency of historical significance. While TAP is preserving the legacy of Georgia Jones-Ayers, her counterparts are preserving Jim Crow’s.
Before we break out the champagne on proposed legislation to finance the study and promises to enact policy to restore MMAP/MDEAT funding, keep in mind that none of this has actually happened yet. And if you think that opposing views and votes can’t derail the progress of Edmonson and Levine Cava in an instance, you haven’t been paying attention. In order to win, the community has to awaken and take its rightful place.
And for good measure, maybe the County’s public housing authority should pay for the disparity study. Because with the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program fresh out of its box, and the forever controversial bid process of the Liberty Square/Lincoln Gardens Project still lingering in disrespect and disparity, the need for a strong eye keeping watch for the Black community is now more critical than ever.
So yes, The Miami Times, two-time consecutive winner of the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s most prestigious honor as the “Best Black Newspaper in the Country,” has created an awareness that has influenced policy and political positioning.
But, if the people let the low-hanging fruit that our series of columns and stories have generated go to waste, it’s back to the classroom for Black Miami. You may know the professor, they call him “Jim.” Mr. “Crow” when the bell rings.