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South Florida Times - July 3, 2008
County agencies spar over funds
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BY JOY-ANN REID
A tug of war between two economic development agencies has led to competing ordinances before the Miami-Dade County Commission.
If both ordinances are approved in their respective committees, they could cause a stalemate in which neither goes into effect.
The fight has emerged between the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust (MMAP)
, an organization that addresses socio-economic disparities in the black community, and the Beacon Council
, Miami-Dade's economic development partnership.
organizers say the Beacon Council, which channels tax revenue from
Miami-Dade County businesses to MMAP for economic development, does not
do enough to address economic disparities in the black community.
Council leaders say their focus is on economic development throughout
the entire county, rather than on specifically targeted communities.
issue is the 8 percent share of the county’s occupational license tax
on all county businesses that the Beacon Council, which receives the
money first, sends to MMAP.
The Beacon Council says it should be
able to keep that money, along with some $300,000 in MMAP funds
currently held in escrow. MMAP and its supporters say they want those
funds released to the social service agency so it can focus on economic
development in disadvantaged communities.
The funds were placed
in escrow last October, after the Beacon Council objected to MMAP's use
of them for economic development, rather than for “advertising and
marketing,’’ as required under county statutes.
Council defends its position
Council President Frank Nero sent a letter to County Manager George
Burgess on June 24, stating that the Beacon Council's “continued
opposition to the diversion of 8% of the Local Business Tax Receipts
Surcharge from The Beacon Council to MMAP should in no way have been
interpreted as an expression of opposition to MMAP’s historic role,
mission, or level of funding,’’ and that the agency's opposition “has
been, and continues to be, based upon three basic issues: the legal
requirements of the state and local statutes, programmatic
effectiveness, and most importantly the duplication of the role and
mission with subsequent dilution of resources.’’
Glean-Jones, executive vice president of the Beacon Council, said that
because the agency is tasked with marketing the entire county, it is
always at risk of criticism from individual groups.
enabled by the county is to provide economic development countywide,’’
Glean-Jones said. “As we retain and recruit companies to the
marketplace, we cannot determine their location.’’
said that although the Beacon Council has not specifically targeted
black communities in the 21 years it has operated, “Have we had
businesses located in those areas? Certainly.’’
As of press
time, however, the Beacon Council was not immediately able to provide
examples of specific businesses it has helped in black communities. But
it did forward a list of partnerships, workshops and other initiatives
it has sponsored that targeted cities with large black populations,
including North Miami and Miami Gardens.
MMAP has been receiving
the 8 percent share of the occupational license tax since the early
1990s. The funds were to be used by MMAP to help small, disadvantaged
businesses to market themselves.
Urban core business development
interim director, John Dixon, said his agency has done much more than
that, such as helping to launch and grow businesses in the county’s
“urban core,’’ including the majority-black cities of Miami Gardens,
Opa-locka and Perrine.
“If you look at the Denny's (restaurant)
that opened on 27th Avenue (in Miami Gardens,) those dollars were used
to open that franchise,’’ Dixon said.
He cited other examples of
businesses MMAP has assisted, including Opa-locka Flight Lines, the
sole black-owned airline refueling company in the southeastern United
States. Dixon said the company received equipment funding through
MMAP's general fund, as well as marketing dollars.
calls for the occupational license funds to be used for marketing and
advertising and promotions by the businesses,’’ Dixon said. “[But] you
cannot market a company unless you have the equipment to have a
company. We helped to sustain these businesses over time.’’
Dixon said, “all of these businesses are in underserved communities’’
that MMAP and its supporters say the Beacon Council has failed to serve.
who worked at the Beacon Council for six years during the 1990s, said
the Council has no similar focus on the county’s urban core as does
“Opa-locka has 15 to 18 percent unemployment,’’ Dixon
said. “They have buildings and warehouses that are vacant. It would be
a great opportunity for a light industrial company to come in and
expand its business. That’s something the Beacon Council could
But, Dixon charged, the Council has never marketed Opa-locka to the large businesses and companies it serves.
gets $4 million’’ a year, Dixon said. “MMAP gets $330,000. The Beacon
Council has not looked at business expansion, attraction or retention
in underserved urban areas like Opa-locka. You’d think that as they go
out and market Miami-Dade County, they would market these underserved
areas, where businesses might relocate if they knew."
Allen, the Beacon Council's vice president for Urban Initiatives
Expansion Retention Recruitment, disputed the notion that the Beacon
Council has not targeted the urban core.
“We’re a marketing organization,’’ Allen said. “We market what's available.’’
pointed to a recent uptick in development activity at Opa-locka
airport, where new vendors are moving in, though she could not name
specific businesses that Beacon has helped to locate in the city of
Opa-locka itself, or in other urban areas.
Allen added that the
agency works closely with community organizations, including local
governments, business councils and community redevelopment agencies in
North Miami, Miami Gardens, Florida City and elsewhere, as well as with
“We're as strong as the organizations on the ground,’’ Allen said.
District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan, however, has sided with MMAP.
Beacon Council does not address small businesses that are the backbones
of our community,’’ Jordan said. “They focus on larger corporations and
businesses and even when they do that, they have yet to bring any of
those companies into our community. They have argued that they need
those additional resources to address economic development, and our
argument is, well you haven’t done that so far, and you can see what
MMAP has done.’’
Jordan has introduced an ordinance that would
make MMAP's 8 percent share of the occupational license surcharge
permanent, while releasing the $300,000 being held in escrow by the
county manager's office.
The release would be predicated on a
revised plan MMAP submitted earlier this year, which Dixon said was
approved by the county attorney, and which Jordan said should satisfy
the Beacon Council’s concerns over MMAP’s spending priorities.
on Tuesday, July 1 introduced an amendment that addressed the concerns
of some commissioners regarding the election and construction of MMAP’s
management and board.
Jordan's amendment was read into the
record Tuesday, and forwarded to the Human Services and Economic
Development committee. Jordan serves on that committee with Miami-Dade
County commissioners Audrey Edmonson, the chair, Katy Sorenson, the
vice chair, District 2 Commissioner Dorrin Rolle and District 10
Commissioner Javier Souto.
Meanwhile, District 7 Commissioner
Carlos Gimenez has introduced a competing ordinance, supported by the
Beacon Council, that would strip MMAP of the tax funds, and award the
entire sum to the Beacon Council.
That ordinance went to the committee on which Gimenez serves, the Budget and Finance committee.
ordinance must pass both committees in order to go to a full commission
vote. If both ordinances pass in their respective committees, but fail
in the other committee, the result would be a stalemate, and neither
In a June 25 email obtained by the South
Florida Times, Nero, the Beacon Council president, said the only way to
avoid such a “check mate’’ would be “if [C]arlos’ ordinance
passes and Jordon's– [Sic] does not.’’
Otherwise, Nero warned,
budget hearings in September could lead to a resolution in which “while
we get all the escrow money we only still get a portion of the 8
percent with $200,000 going to create an 'office of economic
development' in manager's office.’’ [T]o me just another layer of
bureaucracy And a duplication.’’ [Sic]
Nero’s email went on to
warn that if the funding issue ultimately goes to public hearings,
Beacon would have to “turn out the troops’’ in order to win the full
Jordan has requested a “sunshine meeting’’ with Gimenez
to try and iron out a compromise. “Perhaps we can have a meeting of the
minds,’’ she said.
But Jordan also emphasized her continuing concern.
have legitimate concerns about the Beacon Council’s ability to provide
economic development in the black community,’’ she said. “It's
important that we have an entity that's responding to small business
development, and the Beacon Council does not focus on small businesses.
That’s what I feel is the niche that MMAP has that’s totally
Funds reporting dispute
Beacon Council executive vice president, said MMAP has failed in the
past to provide detailed records about how it utilizes occupational
license tax funds. The Beacon Council received about $4.3 million in
such funds last year – about one third of the total surcharge – from
which MMAP receives its 8 percent share.
Dixon, of MMAP, disputes the reporting charge.
report to the county commission,’’ he said. “We provide an annual
report to the county commission and then we provide a copy to the
Beacon Council. We don’t do it vice versa.’’
The next public hearing on the funding could take place in August.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 July 2008 )