Brian Dennis

After The Miami Times received information that a complaint had been filed with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics against former State Rep. Roy Hardemon and Mae Christian by Renita Holmes concerning questionable practices of the Model City Community Advisory Committee, I sent the following questions to Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development Director Michael Liu, on Sept. 7, 2019:

1. Who are the current, active members of the Model City CAC?

2. Of the current membership, how many are elected from within the Model City boundaries? How many are appointed?

3. What are the official boundaries of the Model City CAC?

4. Please provide me with the updated version of the Citizen Participation Plan for Model City CAC.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, I met with Michael Liu and his assistant Clarence Brown concerning the questions. When I arrived for the meeting at 9 a.m. that morning, I deliberately went up there without pen, paper or a reporter’s notebook because I knew the questions that I asked Liu in my email weren't going to be answered. Because had Liu answered any of the questions in my email, it would have put the spotlight on what's wrong with Model City, the Model City CAC and the Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development Department and showed that they are a part of the problem.

The same way that I walked into the Public Housing and Community Development Department is the same way that I walked out: empty handed. The “Cowardly Lion” better known as the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics had the audacity to recommend that the Model City CAC be shut down, but couldn't find any wrongdoing with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos "Fidel Castro" Gimenez's sons being a part of several high stakes deals that involved major tracks of county land? If the Cowardly Lion/Commission on Ethics had any guts they would have pointed out in their report that the county’s public housing department was also to blame for the failures of the Model City advisory program, along with the only two board members who are recognized out of the 13-member Model City board – Hardemon and Christian.

Since 2013, the Model City Community Advisory Committee operated without an official quorum, yet the county allowed meeting after meeting to commence. And from that time to now, fights have broken out, with paramedics and police on the scene; ethics complaints flew board members died; millions of dollars were mismanaged and returned to the state; and not a dime benefitted low-income children and families.

This columnist has learned that the boundaries of Model City CAC only encompass the unincorporated areas of Liberty City and Brownsville. That means that there’s a strong possibility that not even Hardemon and Christian should be active members. It also means that the residents of Brownsville have been disenfranchised from participating in what turns out to be their only means of carrying out federally mandated citizen’s participation. And that spells bad news for Model City, bad news for Black Miami.

What’s worse, the Model City CAC was part of a larger web of committees and councils that were supposed to be a safety net for public housing residents. The web is called the Overall Tenant Advisory Council. This body represented the heads of over 20 public housing tenant councils, countywide, and was supposed to complement economic Community Advisory Committee’s like Model City. But the Overall Tenant Advisory Council was dismantled, too. So if there was no Model City CAC nor Overall Tenant Advisory Council in place from 2013 to now, who could benefit from such dysfunction?

Enter Redevelopment

Over the past seven years or so, the county has launched a devastating footprint in the heart of the Black community. Wiping out thousands of public housing units, relocating tons of low-income families, disrupting feeder patterns of middle and high schools that threaten to under-enroll those schools to the brink of closures, and scattering the voting power of thousands of registered voters in the process. Just in time for the 2020 election. You see, had there been a functioning Model City CAC and Overall Tenant Advisory Council working hand-in-hand, the headlines would have been quite different when the developer for Liberty Square Rising was announced. You would have read of a much more respectful tone when the county shamelessly blamed public housing residents for the same crime and poverty that they admitted fault to, time after time, due to its inadequate, underfunded and inefficient management of public housing.

So today, a “new” section 8 voucher is loose in public housing. The same kind that paid the mortgages of our Hispanic neighbors and helped to build their tropical paradise right here in our neighborhoods while we squirmed in economic struggle. And as our people rightfully swim in the blessing of this new opportunity for them, we simultaneously swallow the bitter pill of our voting bloc dissipating before our eyes, overnight.

The dignity of clean water, functioning plumbing, sound pest control, landscaping and air conditioning was supposed to be in place before the murders of our children, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, grandparents and friends. A price so steep to pay for a new start, for we know that once these residents receive that voucher – they’re never coming back.  And all of this happened because of the deliberate dysfunction of county boards that are supposed to serve our neighborhoods. Because they were attacked, hijacked and humiliated to the point of, now apparent, complete dissolution.

I know that some may agree that public housing residents should be scattered; that the county committees should be dissolved because of how Hardemon, Christian and their cohorts have dishonored the Model City legacy; some say that the county is right. But just remember one thing while you rest your elitist head alongside your pillow tonight – if the price we pay is death and school closures while the reward is to be scattered and stripped of our identity at the polls, while our “worthless” homes becomes A-list property, then surrender without me. I want to rise and stand to face those who would burn down our village and then rebuild the wall as Nehemiah did.

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