In my column "The void left by the death of Arthur E. Teele Jr.,” which appeared in the Nov. 27 edition of The Miami Times, I laid out the blueprint of what Teele did from 1990 to 1996 as chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. Teele made a valiant attempt at bringing the citizens of the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County together in the aftermath of the brutal police beating and death of former U. S. Marine Corps and insurance man Arthur Lee McDuffie and other police shootings, which resulted in three separate rebellions. Two of them occurred in Overtown, the first resulting from the murder of Nevelle Johnson in an Overtown game room and on Jan. 16, 1989, prior to Super Bowl XXIII, when city of Miami Police Officer William Lozano positioned himself in front of a speeding motorcycle and discharged his service revolver, killing motorcyclist Clement Lloyd and his passenger Alan Blanchard.
I want you to wrap your head around this and think about this as you're reading the column. There is a tale of two Miami-Dade County’s that needs to be fully told: the one before Art Teele and the one after him. And that tale is a story of highs and subsequent lows for Black Miami, with a new low storming toward us today.
Teele was a Black man – a known Republican, in a heavily Democratic, Black community and county– running for mayor who didn't think as a Black man. He thought as a people person who was attempting to be the unifier in bringing forth one Miami-Dade County. You see, Teele didn't grow up in Miami and wasn't tied to local politics like other elected officials. Teele was bold, had charismatic charm and a vision of a national politician because he came from a national stage, in a national campaign and helped Ronald Reagan get elected to office in 1980. If you haven't heard of or read the book, "And the walls came tumbling down" by the late civil rights activist and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s second in command Reverend Ralph Abernathy, then you really don't know who was the genius in Arthur E. Teele Jr.
Can you truly sit back and name one politician – Black, white or Hispanic – who could have pulled off what Teele came close to pulling off? The answer is a resounding no. And here's why. The powers that be, during the time that Teele was running for office against Alex Penelas, got creative when they revamped the office of the mayor to that of an “executive” mayor with veto powers over the Board of County Commissioners. But the Board of County Commissioners still had more power than the mayor's office. Then the powers that be got nervous all over again when the threat repeated itself in the form of former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler when she was elected as chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners. The one thing that the powers that be knew was that Carey-Shuler's thinking was just as progressive as Teele’s and her thought process was all inclusive of the people of Miami-Dade County as well. It was no secret that she was politically savvy and could sway her colleagues on the Board of County Commissioners. And Penelas found out quickly that she was a veteran legislator when she created the office of the Commission Auditor to ensure that the Commissioners had a counter budget to Penelas’ budget, which gave them leverage and maintained their power over the land.
Then the voting public of Miami-Dade County created a strong mayor form of government with all of their so called “infinite wisdom” and it not only turned around and bit them in the behind, but it also kicked them in it. Because of the deal that former Mayor Carlos Alvarez struck with the Florida Marlins, the county cut the salaries of all its employees. Some employees are still trying to recoup their dollars and benefits under current Mayor Carlos (Viva Fidel Castro) Gimenez who tried to give himself a pay raise while not paying the county workers their dollars. But the Board of County Commissioners rejected that absurd legislation along with the arrogance of the known dictator.
I can’t stress enough about how important it is for individuals to stop waiting for permission to take your community back. That permission will never come. The only green light in our neighborhoods today is the authorization to scatter you like the wind. Take hold of your roots brothers and sisters and dig in deep. When a storm invades your village, fighting back is your only option. I tried to break it to you gently. Because even if you chose to cower and die, your enemy won’t let you now. A subservient existence is not one filled with graves, but with chains. And that’s how I know that God is in it. Because he will not allow us to die. And now, at the ringing of the bell, we find ourselves with the weapons of a pen, paper and the law in our hands that they used against us that we must now learn and use against the powers that be with a mandate that we must take back the land.
One of the most important things I learned in observing how Teele operated as a commissioner and chairman of both the Board County Commissioners and city of Miami Commission is the complete understanding of how to operate in the confined structure of Robin’s Rules of Order, how to tie resolutions to ordinances that have social and/or economic impact on projects taking place within his district that would not only benefit our people but to ensure that we have equity in any given project that is taking place in our community and to also know that politics and BS both have eight letters in the make up in the spelling of the words. As the old adage saying goes, "You can't BS a BSer," and Teele saw it coming from miles away. But the one thing that the Black community nor did Teele see coming from miles away was the algorithm that would be set in motion that would not only remove the most beloved and feared politician of all time from public office but to take him off of the face of God's green earth. And now you truly understand why there has been a void since the death of Arthur E. Teele Jr.
Who will pick up the mantle as Elisha did from Elijah? Because nowadays, it seems like running for public office in the Black community is only resume padding for social status. The benediction has been given.