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Miami plans to give $2M for
Miami's budget -- awaiting final
approval today -- includes money for an oft-criticized home-building
effort in Model City.
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By Michael Vasquez
In the roughly $491 million budget that Miami city commissioners are
set to approve today, there's about $2 million to keep alive a
controversial quasi-independent agency that's designed to build
affordable homes in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
But the appropriation came with a cost, according to those familiar
with recent budget talks:
The embattled executive director of the Model City Trust, Marva Wiley,
had to go.
Earlier this month, Wiley submitted a letter of resignation, effective
Oct. 31. She declined to comment.
The man who played an integral role in ousting her -- Miami City
Manager Joe Arriola -- had plenty to say.
''She's incompetent, she hasn't done her job,'' Arriola told The Herald
last week. The manager softened his tone somewhat Monday, saying he had
nothing against Wiley personally.
Since 2000, Miami has poured millions of dollars into the Model City
home-building effort, which completed its first new home only about a
City administrators and the Model City Trust have often blamed each
other for the slow pace of construction -- and the
sometimes-questionable expenditures associated with it.
But last month, basking in the accomplishment of their first home, both
sides vowed greater cooperation.
The collegiality didn't last long. When asked whether the Model City
Trust would have survived had Wiley not voluntarily departed, Arriola
responded, ``I don't work in hypotheticals.''
Arriola lacks the power to fire Wiley directly, and city commissioners,
not him, approve the budget. Nevertheless, the manager enjoys the
support of most commissioners on many issues.
State Sen. Frederica Wilson, who has been heavily involved in city
discussions over the trust's future, said Arriola made his position
clear during negotiations earlier this month.
''He kept saying he couldn't work with Marva [Wiley],'' Wilson said.
``I don't want them to not fund the trust, and I saw that coming.''
An early version of the city budget submitted prior to Wiley's
resignation included no money this year for the trust, which could have
crippled the agency.
Wilson, a Miami Democrat, said Wiley had become the target of blame for
the home-building mishaps, including some mistakes that were not her
fault. Still, Wilson said she would not fight to keep Wiley from losing
her post -- the important thing was to make sure the trust survived.
N. Patrick Range Sr., chairman of the Model City Trust's Board of
Directors, said the high-stakes haggling left him with a sour taste.
''Marva [Wiley] has worked very diligently at her job,'' Range said.
``We seem to have been put in a situation of Marva resigning or putting
the whole project in jeopardy. . . . The community deserves a lot more