A year ago, Miami-Dade commissioners decided not to name a county street after the late developer José Milton, citing concerns with a housing-discrimination complaint against the family’s company that has since been dropped.
On Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved putting Milton’s name on another county asset: a new government-owned hospital tower receiving a $10 million gift from the family foundation.
“We are delighted,” Ana Milton, president of the José Milton Foundation, said after the commission vote.
The nonprofit’s donation is part of the fundraising effort for the new Jackson West campus, an expansion of the county-owned Jackson hospital system, which is based in Miami. Milton said the family charity wanted to back the expansion of public health into the western areas of Miami-Dade. “It’s considered a healthcare desert,” she said.
Milton, a high-rise developer and philanthropist, died in 2013 at age 83.
Commissioners on Wednesday didn’t discuss the Jackson item, which required the board’s approval under a longstanding rule governing the naming of government property after individuals. When Commission Chairman Jean Monestime asked for any no votes, nobody on the 13-member board raised a hand, effectively approving the name without comment.
That wasn’t the case in September 2015, when a proposal to name part of Fontainebleau Boulevard as “José Milton Way” passed 7 to 4 after extended debate. The four dissenting commissioners cited federal complaints in the 1980s and 1990s that accused Milton buildings of turning away black renters because of their race. The U.S. Justice Department ended the 1995 case with Milton’s company paying a $1.2 million settlement.
Weeks after approving “José Milton Way” on Sept. 1, 2015, the commission took the rare step of reconsidering a vote, citing new allegations against Milton properties. A new lawsuit, filed two weeks after the vote, accused the Milton company of discrimination in recent years. The litigation was enough for Monestime, sponsor of the Milton item, to withdraw his support and scuttle the renaming effort.
The new litigation didn’t last long: Seven months after filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff dismissed it, according to a county report. Ana Milton said the proceedings didn’t get past the evidence-gathering stage. She said the past allegations shouldn’t have been a factor in the foundation’s support of Jackson’s expansion. “That’s totally independent from this,” she said.
Daniella Levine Cava, one of the four commissioners who opposed the original Milton street naming, said she saw the Jackson tribute as linked to a significant benefit for the community, while a street name gets bestowed purely as an honor.
“This was a gift for a public purpose,” she said. “A street-naming really isn’t a public purpose.”