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Black communities to bear the brunt of County budget cuts to libraries, fire stations

Poor neighborhoods among hardest hit

D. Kevin McNeir | 7/24/2013, 11:43 a.m.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has taken an about-face when it comes to first raising taxes and then leaving them ...
Mayor Gimenez

— Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has taken an about-face when it comes to first raising taxes and then leaving them as they are. But in order to make sure the budget is balanced, and without raising the property-tax rate, the County will have to make cuts in services. What cuts does he recommend? Gimenez calls for the closing of 22 libraries — equating to nearly half of the County’s 49 public libraries. Also on the chopping block are six fire rescue trucks, which combined with the library closures, would result in approximately 400 employee layoffs. According to County officials, the library department faces a $20 million gap while the fire department is $15 million short. But here’s the caveat: the Mayor’s recommendations, at least from the outside, appear to disproportionately impact poor neighborhoods. For example, among the six fire stations scheduled to lose a truck, two are from Florida City and Goulds — two of Miami-Dade County’s [MDC] lowest-income cities. Gimenez opted for the cuts but says he won’t touch pension plans. Readers should note that as an ex-fire chief forthe City, Gimenez is banking a six-figure pension. An official from M-DC’s communications department says the cuts are necessary. “He's trying to keep the department and the County in as solid of a situation as possible,” said Fernando Figueredo, M-DC director of communications. “Look at cities like Detroit that are going bankrupt.” Fire Chief Dave Downey says making cuts to specific fire stations was a tough decision, adding that he had hoped that that the new budget would allow for adding services. In addition to Goulds and Florida City, fire services will also be cut in Eastern Shores, Coconut Palm, Haulover Beach and North Bay Village. “There’s going to be six less units in our system — that translate into other units having to come over from their territories, which leaves those unprotected,” Downey said. Other libraries set to close include: Opa-locka, Lemon City, Little River, Model City, Culmer, North Shore, Virrick Park and Hialeah Gardens.