Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones likes to talk about “keeping it real.”

Unfortunately, like playing poker, anytime she starts saying that, it’s a tell that lets you know you can just about bet the farm that she’s out to screw you.

Last night at a community meeting where several hundred folks showed up to hear presentations from the top two bidders for city blocks 45 and 56 - the heart of the original Overtown - Spence-Jones couldn’t resist telling all those folks that she was all about keeping it real, where by the end of the meeting, it was evident - at least to me - that she had pulled a real fast one on folks.

The City of Miami had their video crew here, and I have submitted a public records request for a copy of the tape of the entire meeting, which I hope I can get ASAP and post on line because while it runs for about 3 hours, folks in other parts of Miami NEED to look anf listen to the problems that many residents and community leaders spoke about when they had their two minutes to comment of these proposals.

It is especially important that everyone in Miami know and understand the health and medical problems that have existed in Overtown for decades, including cancer and Asthma, and the concerns - concerns that folks in every community all over America have about the education of their children, the opportunity for jobs and any opportunity for a future for the remaining young people in that community.

There was also a concern about the issues I raised in my first story about this deal of how a competitive bidding process has resulted in the top two bidders being allowed to negotiate contracts, and most importantly about the land itself.

The land was a major concern, and Grady Muhammad was the person who galvanized many people by his demand that the CRA should never sell Overtown’s historic downtown land because that land was a legacy that the community owned.

I heard a number of amazing thing said during the meeting, starting with the CRA’s lawyer admitting that the CRA appraisers had indeed valued the land at $20,000,000, and then I forget who, whether it was the lawyer or Clarence Woods the SEOPW CRA Executive Director, who said that while that was true, neither of the two companies bidding for this property were willing to pay that amount because they didn’t think the property was worth that much.

Imagine if a similar meeting has been held in the Brickell Avenue area and a similar chunk of public property was being put up for sale, and the people supposedly representing the folks in the Brickell Avenue area had been told the same nonsense?

Those people would have said, Hey it’s the public’s land, and if these people don’t want to pay the price, THEN DON’T SELL IT TO THEM!

Instead, no one was told, or is there any evidence of what either of these two bidders was actually willing to pay for this property.  The closest explanation came from a slide included in the All Aboard Florida presentation which put their total financial commitment at $21.5 million, including the price they were willing to pay for the land.

This slide doesn’t reveal what these people are paying for the land!  And in fact, given that this amount represents money supposedly committed and/or allocated for other “community activities” the community is being screwed, because any money going to the “community should be in addition to, and not subtracted from the price of the land.

No one knows what the price that the SEOPW CRA agreed to sell the land for because folks also weren’t allowed, nor did either of the representatives from the two companies responded to any of the comments, recommendations and or questions raised by the folks when they spoke to be able to ask them.

So, when Spence-Jones talks about keeping it real, it didn’t have anything to do with keeping it real about the land or the money, because people left as clueless as when they came in about just how much these companies - and more importantly the SEOPW CRA - agreed to let them have that property for.

That’s the first part of the screwing that Spence-Jones laid on folks last night!

The second part was the fact that All Aboard Florida has already signed a development agreement with the SEOPW CRA, which means that all of the talk, and all of the questions, and all of the concerns mean jack-shit when it comes to the terms of the agreement already reached by the SEOPW CRA and the All Aboard Florida folks.

The Don Peebles/Gateway Group has supposedly not yet signed an agreement, but they has supposedly also reach an agreement in principle.

The deal with All Aboard Florida is done and signed, and nothing that anyone said last night will change a single word of that deal

The next part of the screwing, which caught even veteran Spence-Jones watchers by surprise, was how she threw SEOPW CRA Clarence Woods under the bus in an effort to appease the anger and frustration of many in the audience over the who process that allowed both of these companies to negotiate contracts, when traditional competitive processes, including the cone-of-silence were waived and/or ignored.

Now Clarence Woods deserves everything he got last night, and more, because he’s been nothing but Spence-Jones’ do-boy from the very beginning as the Executive Director of the SEOPW CRA, but that’s the point, because everyone knows  that Clarence doesn’t do much as the Executive Director without getting approval from Spence-Jones!

If anyone really believes that she didn’t keep him on a very tight leash, and expected at every step of the way to be kept informed of what was going on with this project - which Spence-Jones views as the cornerstone of her legacy - other than beating the rap on the bribery case - then I know where there are two downtown city blocks that you can buy real cheap!

So the charade that Spence-Jones pulled by throwing Clarence Woods under the bus was nothing but a piece of stagecraft, intended to deflect attention from her own behavior in this deal!

But, the absolute most crazy part of the whole night came when Spence-Jones informed both of the companies that because she was unhappy with the way that the SEOPW CRA staff had handled the process up to that point, she was withdrawing the CRA staff from the process, and  she wanted both companies - that each, she claimed, had good ideas - to go into a room, and come out with a new deal that included the best of each of their plans, because she planned on bringing this issue up for a vote next week on September 12th.

It takes a little while to comprehend, but THAT IS INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Especially in the City of Miami, and most especially with Spence-Jones and the other morons/lying weasel dicks on the Miami City Commission!!!!!!!!!!!

Even if both of these companies decided to do this - and there is no assurance that they will - this new proposal would have to be treated as a new proposal under the procedures of the RFP, and it would have to go before the same Selection Committee for approval.

To think that a new proposal could just be cobbled together and not be reviewed and/or vetted by staff people who are responsible to the taxpayers, but instead just plopped in front of the members of the Miami City Commission for them to vote on - and mind you the September 12th CRA meeting is scheduled for 2 PM on the same day that the City Commission will be holding their first public budget meeting - is either complete and utter madness on the part of Michelle Spence-Jones, or one of the slickest, slight-of-hand schemes I’ve ever seen a politician try to pull off!

The very notion that an issue as complex, and with as many serious financial concerns, along with being so important to the folks of Overtown, could be handled by the Miami City Commission at the same time that they are involved in a full blown budget Commission meeting is a recipe for a disaster and complete and utter nonsense!!!!

No matter what, the result of such a hurried up and underhanded process would be, the final result would be the screwing of the residents of Overtown, and this time the person whose leading the pack to do the screwing is Michelle Spence-Jones!



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One last thing. I did not see any reporters from either the Miami Herald or El Nuevo Herald at this meeting last night.  Maybe someone was there that I did not spot, but nothing has appeared so far on the Herald’s website this morning about this meeting, which tends to support my belief that no one from the Herald was there.

If they weren’t, then this is a slight, and an insult to the entire Black community in Miami-Dade County!

This was a serious meeting about a critically serious issue, and was attended by several hundred folks - Black, White and Hispanic who cared enough about what’s happened, and will happen to Overtown - to show up.

After the ass-kissing advertisement that the Herald tried to pass off as a “news story” a couple weeks ago about the involvement of All Aboard Florida in this project, to not show up last night should be reason enough for folks to consider calling for a Boycott of the Miami Herald.

The same can also be said for ALL of the local TV stations, who didn’t think this was newsworthy enough to even send a cameraman.

Their failure of all of the mainstream news media on Miami to cover this meeting is nothing else if not shameful!

They damn sure don’t care about you all and your needs and concerns, because they’ve never bothered to assign a reporter to cover Overtown and Liberty City, and the only time that they want to show up is when somebody’s been shot!