Liberty City is not just a community I serve, but also the community where I was born and raised. I am no stranger to Liberty City, it is my home. I emphatically want to see Liberty Square and the surrounding community redeveloped and thriving.
I, along with residents of this county, want the very best for Liberty City, for it is part of Miami-Dade County’s vibrant fabric and it well deserves our immediate attention, concern and resources. Residents have felt overlooked, slighted and at times, deserted.
Liberty Square Rising wasn’t birthed from a single conversation or meeting. A plan to revitalize, redevelop and re-energize Liberty Square has been discussed with two public-housing directors, other elected officials, law enforcement and the community. This project will be one of the most talked about, most remembered for its historic proportions. It is, by far, the most costly venture Liberty City has ever experienced.
When resources were blended from a variety of sources, there was a consensus that a redevelopment plan and execution would commence. I insisted, and now reiterate, that public input was and is still key for the project’s success. Members of the Liberty Square Public Housing Tenant Council visited public housing developments throughout this country that had undergone similar redevelopment efforts.
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In the county’s process to select a developer for Liberty Square Rising, there were six proposals submitted. At my urging, a member of the Liberty Square Public Housing Tenant Council was included on the Selection Committee. The community and I were elated that a community representative would help select a developer and be a part of the intricate process.
That elated feeling soon turned to despair and a sense of disrespect when the scoring of the only voice from the proposed development area was questioned and recalculated (which is not an unusual practice) and ultimately eliminated, sending the process to a “run-off” with no apparent winner. This caused the voice of the community to be silenced. The process then became a series of moves that showed an insensitivity to the community’s wishes.
Fairness would dictate that all stakeholders would told, “Here are the rules, and here is the road we will take.” However, the county administration asked for the “best and final offer” from two developers and then only negotiated with one. I believe that in the “tool chest” of authority, there were different options that could have been considered and presented. Clearly, business, as usual, trumps the goodwill of the people.
Ultimately, the County Commission will weigh in and make a final decision.
Because I want this project to move forward and be successful for the residents of Liberty Square, I will continue to fight for the absolute best Liberty City Rising project. I will continue to fight for fairness and inclusion. I will push for guarantees in the contract for equity partners and not just promises to work with organizations.
I will continue to fight for a process that believes that every score counts.
Audrey M. Edmonson represents District 3 on the Miami-Dade County Commission.