Putneys attack of CDBG funds in Liberty City is offensive

admin | 2/15/2012, 7:30 a.m.

'Why no uproar when same dollars used in Hialeah or Little Havana?'

Michael Putney criticized Mayor Regalado and Commissioner Spence Jones for utilizing $428,545 of federal funds for beautification of businesses in Liberty City. He suggests the beautification of the businesses is a waste of money and it is putting lipstick on a pig. He wonders what is the rationale for spending $428,000 in public money to jazz up the facades of privately owned businesses. He acknowledges there are restrictions on CDBG funds and suggests that he would spend it on job training, after-school tutoring and other programs for Liberty City School kids. He further criticizes the project because the facades will feature a contemporary Afro-centric architectural style. He asks does anyone know what that means? He claims hundreds of millions have been spent in Liberty City since the McDuffie riots and there are no results except the Edison Towers and Belafonte-Tacolcy Center. He suggests that the millions have gone to corrupt politicians, Black and white and community organizations. Are comments reflective of prejudice? Mr. Putney is a classic example of a white man who has no idea how prejudiced he comes across. His criticism of funding to improve Liberty City smacks to me of insidious racism. The City has roughly $37 million allocated to community development. A mere $400,000 is spent of federal funds in Liberty City and he is in an uproar. Why no uproar when CDBG dollars are spent in Coral Gables, Hialeah, Little Havana and the City of Miami Beach? Why no outcry when several hundred thousand dollars were used to put Flamingos all over town? Why no outcry when American Airlines terminal went millions of dollars over budget? Mr. Putney shows his ignorance when he criticizes the use of the funds for urban beautification. Hello, Mr. Putney. Please read 42 USC Section 5305 which outlines the appropriate use of these funds. It is to prevent slums and blight for beautification of urban areas. It cannot be used for after-school programs and tutoring. Mr. Putney further demonstrates his ignorance of economic development when he does not understand the importance of improving the appearance of neighborhood stores. First, you create jobs for contractors and workers in an area where unemployment is close to 18 percent. Second, a more pleasant appearance attracts people to the store, which increases their revenues. This makes neighborhood stores more economically viable. It allows them to continue to hire residents and may improve sales to the point that they can employ more workers. The beautification of the neighborhood provides the residents with pride in their neighborhood. This catalyst of stimulating blighted neighborhoods has proven effective and the program has worked in numerous locations. It is an effective use of federal funding to help improve the lives of low income Americans. Liberty City needs more money to speed recovery What Mr. Putney should be asking is why so little money has poured into Liberty City, Brownsville, Allapattah, Opa-Locka, Florida City and other African-American communities. Why with a budget of $37 million is only $400,000 going into Liberty City? Mr. Putney should ask where is the $36.6 million that is not designated for Liberty City going? I wish that Mr. Putney was right when he said hundreds of millions have poured into Liberty City. I was chairman of a community organization in Liberty City, Tools for Change. Our budget was cut year after year, even though we helped thousands of businesses through our technical assistance programs and helped train hundreds of people who subsequently received good paying jobs. Our staff was so dedicated that when the County cut our funding to a subsistence level, they continued to work for free. The broad brush that Mr. Putney cavalierly paints of Liberty City community organizations being corrupt is offensive. Mr. Putney infers that African-American taxpayers should not see their taxes come back to their communities. I have always argued that if we could just get back 50 percent of our tax dollars into our communities, we would have the best schools, housing, roads and shopping centers in the world. The reality is that very little of African-American tax dollars comes back to our neighborhoods. I remember when Commissioner Ferguson was first elected to office. One of her first priorities was to try to rectify years of unequal services. She pushed for regular garbage pick-up, repair and maintenance of park equipment, repairs to a public library with roof leaks, etc. She was tired of separate and unequal. There are parts of the African-American community, such as Brownsville, that did not have any new development projects for decades. It is the advent of single member districts and African-American commissioners that led to projects in our communities. I would love for Mr. Putney to show us the records to support his assertion that hundreds of millions have poured into Liberty City. How could that be when the City of Miamis entire community development budget is only $37 million? Is he suggesting that Liberty City has enjoyed the benefit of the City of Miamis entire community development budget for several years? That contention is so ludicrous, it is laughable. Miamis Black politicians constantly berated Like all Miami Herald writers, he seems to love to throw dirt at Black politicians. For the record, Michelle Spence-Jones won her trial she is innocent. All the other charges against her were dropped. She did receive funds from the County for redevelopment and she appropriately used those funds to convert a dilapidated property that was used by the homeless and crack addicts and developed it into a business. Does Mr. Putney believe that we should not convert crack houses into businesses that bring jobs to our community? What was Michelle Spence-Joness sin in trying to improve her community even before she entered public service? Is there something wrong with her entrepreneurial spirit? Why no outcry from Mr. Putney regarding the hundreds of millions in tax breaks to large corporations that have record profits and then ship jobs overseas? With the departure of David Lawrence and the steady decline in readership of the Miami Herald, the paper has become more salacious. It seems like the newspaper is trying so hard to sell papers that its columnist and writers do not check their facts and just foster malicious criticism by throwing up dirt that is meant merely to slander our pastors, politicians and leaders. In this town, if you become too uppity, then the white establishment finds the need to take you down. The continuous attacks on Michelle Spence-Jones is a classic example of this phenomena. This is not a new phenomenon. J. Edgar Hoover and the white press attacked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling him a communist. Michael Putney and his fellows at the Miami Herald continue the tradition by attacking our current leaders. How many years from now is the Miami Herald going to continue to bring up the charges against Michelle Spence-Jones? Why does the Miami Herald not mention in every article about former President Bush that he had alcohol and drug problem? Why not mention in every article about Newt Gingrich that he cheated on his wife? Why not mention in every article about Jeb Bush that his wife did not fully declare all the items she bought when going through customs? Enough is enough During the past 24 years that I have lived in Miami, the Miami Herald has unfairly attacked every effective Black political leader in this town, to just mention a few: William Turner, Congresswomen Carrie Meek, Congressman Kendrick Meek, Commissioner Betty Ferguson, Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, School Board Chair Solomon Stinson, Pastor Gaston Smith, Bishop Victor Curry and Commissioner Arthur Teele. Did no one get Commissioner Teeles message when he shot himself in the Miami Herald building? His last conversation was with the only person in the entire Miami Herald building who Commissioner Teele felt had integrity and would treat him fairly, Jim DeFede. What happened to that journalist? The Miami Herald promptly fired him. For the sake of this community, the Miami Herald needs to stop tearing down the African-American community and its leaders. Liberty City is not a pig. Many decent and hardworking people have lived in that community for generations. Using federal dollars to improve Liberty City is not putting lipstick on a pig. Mr. Putney has stepped way out of line. He has shown a cavalier lack of respect to the entire African-American community and he would not have dared to make that comment about Little Havana. By Reginald J. ClyneMiami Times Columist