Letters to the Editor

Another CRA giveaway?

Recently the Worldcenter deal has come under scrutiny due to the appearance of a big development money giveaway.

The Southeast Overtown/Park West Redevelopment Agency brokered a deal that would provide Miami Worldcenter’s developers millions in incentives and subsidies. In return the Worldcenter developers made pledges regarding local hiring and wage rates.

I support any deal that would provide job and wage benefits to residents of Overtown. However, something sounds eerily familiar. I recall other multi-million dollar development deals that promised the world in terms of the quantity and quality of jobs such as the Miami Arena and Miami Marlin sites. However, in the end the developers either abandoned the development, developers got richer, and the people remained in perpetual poverty.

Academicians, activists and labor groups are urging more transparency due to the skepticism and, quite frankly, lack of trust of Comm. Keon Hardemon to negotiate a fair deal on behalf of the people.

A report by Alayne Unterberger of the FIU Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy compares similar development deals to the alleged benefits of the Worldcenter deal. According to that report, Who Benefits?, there is a question as to the “enforcement mechanisms connected to hiring within priority zip codes.”

The report goes on to state that the Worldcenter developers currently face a one-time penalty for not hiring within the greater Miami-Dade area. In the opinion of many concerned about this deal, the so-called penalty is minuscule and inconsequential compared to the tens of millions that will go into the coffers of the developers. Furthermore, there is an issue of how TIF (tax increment financing) was used to finance this deal. Just for clarification, tax revenue derived from the TIF is used to address blight and slum.

My suggestion moving forward, to gain the trust of the community, the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency should undergo financial and performance audits. A financial statement audit is an examination of an entity's financial statements and accompanying disclosures by an independent auditor. The result of this examination is a report verifying the fairness of presentation of the financial statements and related disclosures.

Performance audits are independent reviews of government funded organizations. They evaluate whether organizations are undertaking their functions efficiently, effectively and economically. Once both reports are completed, the reports should be displayed for public consumption.

I believe this is appropriate given the most recent and not so recent history of poor communities and its residents being used as pawns in the big development game.

Robert Malone, Miami