Which District 5 candidate is the best fit?

It may depend on how voters see the puzzle

D. Kevin McNeir | 9/26/2013, 9 a.m.
It may be hard to believe, but in six weeks [Tuesday, Nov. 5] the voters of the City of Miami ...

It may be hard to believe, but in six weeks [Tuesday, Nov. 5] the voters of the City of Miami will return to the polls to select a mayor and to chose commissioners for Districts 3 and 5. But for Blacks, all eyes are particularly fixed on District 5, currently led by City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. The District, which includes Liberty City, Little Haiti/Historic Lemon City, Overtown and portions of Buena Vista, is considered one of the most diverse and neglected areas in Miami.

Four candidates are hoping to replace Spence-Jones, implementing their own programs and sharing their unique perspectives: Jacquetta “Jacqui” Colyer, the Rev. Richard Dunn II, Keon Hardemon and Dr. Robert Malone, Jr. None of the candidates are strangers to the District and each has been seen around town, talking to neighborhood associations, participating in meet-and-greets and knocking on doors. Still, we believed that it was imperative that The Miami Times asked them questions that would give voters a greater insight into their plans and platforms.

Miami Times: What are your views about the process evolved in the recent CRA Overtown project? Do you support the compromise that gave the bid to two firms and are you in favor of a trust fund for the community which both developers have promised to establish?

Colyer: The CRA has a procurement process and the process should be followed. It is when we move away from the agreed upon procurement process that things begin to get off with protests, etc. If a selection committee makes a decision about who is chosen then that choice should be followed. As for a trust fund, the community should come together and develop a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement — one that would include a long term overview of the benefits that will come to the community and would apply to all of the developers.

Dunn: The process might have been a bit rushed. I would like to have seen the community given more time to digest the proposals. I don’t mind compromises and collaborations as long as they provide the most beneficial deal for the City and its residents. My number one concern for any board that is put into place is transparency and involvement from the community.

Hardemon: The Selection Committee found that Overtown Gateway’s proposal offered the best opportunities for Overtown residents while the second-ranked proposal submitted by All Aboard Florida offered a better regional impact plan. As such, splitting blocks 45 and 56 between the two development plans was a smart move. And while I support the proposal to fund a community-based and operated foundation, the amount of funding as proposed appears to be insufficient to address the needs of the Overtown community. Stakeholders in the Overtown community must be empowered to direct where the funding goes.

Malone: While I believe the process could have been better, it is the concerns of residents and stakeholders asking for better transparency, more community benefits negotiated and greater public input that matter. Trust funds are notorious for having millions of dollars simply disappear. To make sure money is spent properly, the only protection is a board and staff with ethics and morals which are too often absent. There must be greater public participation encouraged because ultimately the public has to live with the consequences of the actions of these boards.