Will Gimenez keep his promises?

caines | 1/31/2013, 4:30 a.m.

Mayor says hes committed to diversity but Blacks barely visible in Countys top seats

Theres been a swift and unprecedented changing of the guard in one of Miami-Dade Countys top positions. With the recent retirement of County Fire Chief William Bryson, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez appointed Chief David Downey, a 30-year veteran to take over the vacated spot effective Feb. 2nd. And while Gimenez has the authority to hire and fire employees at the County level, there are some in the Black community who wonder why there was such a rush to replace Bryson. But more than that, the question continues to arise why Gimenez has not acted on filling the open seat for County police director. The police directors job has been vacant since James Loftus retired on October 1st at which time the Mayor determined that Assistant Directors J.D. Patterson [who is Black] and Naim Erched would run the Department until a new director was appointed. Allegedly, Erched didnt like that arrangement and chose to move on. Patterson remained. So when will Gimenez make a decision? We are getting down to our finalists for the police directors position and I hope to finalize my decision before the end of the month, Gimenez said. As for Bryson, I made it clear from the beginning that he would only be there for a short time and that I wanted an inside person to be the next fire chief. What we dont have at present, neither in the fire or police departments, is a succession plan for the direction and for the ranks among the upper staff. We do need that. Gimenez says that increasing diversity among the upper ranks of county government remains on his agenda just as it was part of his campaign platform when he was running for county mayor. I still stand behind my commitment to diversity and believe it is crucial that we maintain a balance inside the administrative staff, at the upper levels of the county and at all levels of county government, he said. That is a factor that Ill be considering as I make the appointment for police director. Gimenez was unwilling to say more on the record about the number of finalists, their ethnic backgrounds or how he might be led to fill the police directors spot, but some of Miamis more vocal activists were willing to give their perspectives.

Blacks look for action not promises

I must say that I have little optimism when it comes to the Mayors assurance of ensuring greater diversity at the top levels of county government, said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Miami Dade Branch, NAACP. You have to show me the beef. When you dont see the action, its hard to believe that it is going to happen. Blacks in Miami remain in an ongoing fight just to be at the table and we are still the last hired and the first fired. Every time a Black is hired in Miami-Dade, we have to pass the bar which is set even higher than it is for others. And when we do get there they often pull the ladder from under us so that we are arent allowed to stay long. Nweze will be meeting with a coalition of community leaders including members of P.U.L.S.E., the Progressive Officers Club [Black police in M-DC], the Professional Firefighters Association, retired county employees and others to address issues of diversity and racism and how these issues impact county employees. We know the importance of diversity and have no doubt that the Mayor could make it more of a priority if he wanted to, said Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox, P.U.L.S.E. executive director. The whole Brian Beckmann case is ongoing with his hearing coming up on Feb. 5th. I think thats why Gimenez filled the fire chiefs spot so quickly. But lets be honest Blacks have not been the recipients of high level jobs in Miami-Dade County like we should. As a coalition we are determined to change that. We do not have a level playing field what we have in Miami-Dade is political patronage, said Elizabeth Judd, 71, AFSCME president for Dade County retires. There should at least be a process in place so that when theres an open position, anyone who believes theyre qualified can at least get an interview. Thats not how things operate today. As far as Im concerned, J.D. Patterson should have been appointed a long time ago hes been doing the job of at least three people. said Walter Clark, president/CEO and special consultant for African American Government Employees. But its just another example of the reluctance if not refusal to give us a fair deal. Whats the reason for the delay? Brian Dennis, Brothers of the Same Mind, president said, J.D. Patterson is head and shoulders above the rest and is the only one with all of the credentials. Maybe well see the right thing done this time. But political activist Tangela Sears was less optimistic saying, Is he [Gimenez] looking for someone that will do the job effectively or does he want someone that will do whatever he wants? Thats the question. County officials with whom we spoke were unwilling to go on the record with their views. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com