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Residents demand transparency before voting deadline

Miami Gardens shares details on $60 million bond

Carla St.Louis | 3/27/2014, 9 a.m.

“Speak the truth, and shame the Devil,” goes the popular Christian saying, and the policy makers of the City of Miami Gardens are following cue.

Officials told residents, both Black and white, as much as they could at a town hall meeting when it came to their proposed general obligation bond for large scale renovations to the City on March 20th.

The meeting on the $60 million bond that’s slated for park renovations, recreational facilities and public safety seemingly gained supporters, after City Manager Cameron Benson explained its end goal, that is, the bond is necessary to lure investors into the City. It was held at the Pentecostal Tabernacle International Church at 18415 NW 7th Avenue.

While community members agreed the City needs investors, many were left frustrated with the administration’s open-ended answers, despite receiving documents and a PowerPoint presentation that addressed concerns about the bond. What was missing, according to residents, even after a previous town hall meeting, was a detailed list of the 18 parks in Miami Gardens that need renovations along with their prospective locations and cost.

In response, the City said it plans to create a website so residents can track the progress of the projects. Benson also said the bond will include an oversight committee and financial adviser to oversee the projects for transparency.

Other residents were still concerned about why the City has not produced a detailed timeline indicating when construction would start and where, but Benson explained that they are in the initial phase and those details will be done with the input of the community not solely by the administration.

Ballots will be mailed on April 1 and must be received by April 21 as the City will begin tabulation of the results at 7 p.m. that same day.

The administration said it will hold additional meetings prior to the voting deadline.

Benson shared with an audience of at least 60 concerned residents that he and Mayor Oliver Gilbert regularly meet with investors but because of the City’s crime rate, they are hesistant to invest.

“The first thing I’m asked whenever I speak with a development group is how is the crime,” said Benson. “We as a city still have to make public investments. We need to make Miami Gardens attractive to investors.”

Benson said the City owns a number of properties and is actively working on attracting businesses to invest but says the bond is the first step.

“We are trying to attract young folks and have the young folks who are residents of Miami Gardens actually re-invest in the City,” said Benson. “My vision for Miami Gardens is to see it as a Wynwood. We can do it; Wynwood used to be a crime-ridden area.”

Marlene Arribas, Executive Director of the Hispanic Coalition, agreed with Benson, passionately saying, “The only way to bring in money to Miami Gardens is to clean it up. How do we clean it up? With the kids; we must reinvest in the kids. I’ve been living here for 50 years, and I’m sick and tired of the complaining. You are lucky you are getting this.”