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Economy just tip of iceberg in southern districts

caines | 6/21/2012, 6 a.m.

Political candidates also grapple with education and foreclosures

Local candidates running in the Aug. 14th primaries are facing challenges unique to their respective districts, but politicians vying for a seat in the southern part of the County all cite agricultural issues, education and devastating foreclosure rates as major blemishes in their communities. "Among the many issues challenging my district is agriculture. Unlike the northern part of the county, agriculture heavily contributes to the local economy within my district," said Kionne McGhee, candidate for Florida State Representative in District 117 [includes Culter Ridge and East Perrine]. "The state of Florida has failed to provide our farm workers with the necessary resources and protection," he said. Ron Saunders, candidate for state senate in District 39, says residents are not receiving their fair share of state dollars to improve areas of South-Dade. His district includes: Key West, Homestead, Labelle and Immokalee. Our senate district does not currently receive our fair share of state dollars, he said. We face many challenges creating and keeping good jobs, providing affordable windstorm and healthcare insurance and adequately funding our schools." In recent weeks, The Miami Times reported that schools in South Dade ranked among the lowest in both graduation rates and FCAT scores. Dr. Wilbert T. Holloway, former state representative in District 103, who represented northern areas in the County, currently sits on the Miami-Dade County School Board. His outlook on education mimics that of politicians in the South. "I'm not one to focus on the negatives," he said. "I'm really trying to encourage the positives in our school system. We need to focus on reading and math and continually getting our parents involved and making sure parents support what goes on in the classroom."

The woes of foreclosures and more

Beyond its concerns with education, the southern districts have some of the highest foreclosure rates in Florida out of 1.65 million foreclosures filed nationally, 94,466 of these foreclosures were filed in South Florida [2010]. "Many of our seniors are losing their homes because of tax sales," McGhee said. Dr. James Bush III, candidate for Florida state senator in District 39, agrees that a lack of affordable housing is at the top of the list for his district [includes Goulds, Richmond Heights, Homestead and Naranja]. There are too many people on the waiting list for Section 8 and they need decent, affordable housing especially our disproportionate number of single Black mothers," he said. Dwight Bullard, running for the same seat and district, concurred with Bush about sufficient child care being a problem. Over the last several years, things have gotten better, but the struggling economy has set us back, Bullard said. Since 2008, the southern region has seen significant cutbacks in county services and is under threat to lose our Jackson Hospital campus." Last spring, the hospital eliminated 195 staff positions and laid off 920 workers in an effort to save its healthcare system millions of dollars. Bullard's mother, Larcenia Bullard, the soon-to-retire incumbent for District 39 said, After Hurricane Andrew, the train tracks were removed that led to Florida City. Now we have bus ways and just a metro rail that stops at Dadeland. This is making it harder for the residents to get to their jobs. County Commissioner Dennis Moss, District 9 and seeking reelection, says more attention must be given to South Dade. "Jobs are a major concern in this area, but as the real estate market starts to turn around and people start to occupy foreclosed homes, we will see retail and industrial development starting to expand," he said. By Latoya Burgesslburgess@miamitimesonline.com