Housing protesters: `Show me the money'

Charles Rabin and Dani McClain
Sept. 8, 2006

Miami Herald

The money signified millions of dollars wasted by the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, demonstrators said. Those waving the bills defied a commission rule that calls for the removal of anyone holding a sign or heckling from the audience.

''My kids and I are living in one room and out of boxes. This is a disgrace,'' said Liberty City's Caprice Brown, her voice breaking as she looked directly at her district commissioner, Dorrin Rolle.

Brown was forced out of Scott/Carver Homes a few years ago, believing -- along with hundreds of others -- that new homes would be built at the site, in Rolle's district. The homes have yet to be built.

''You should be shamed. I am deeply hurt,'' Brown weeped.

Rolle did not respond.

The protest took place before the County Commission's preliminary budget hearing, in which commissioners were considering County Manager George Burgess's proposed $6.89 billion budget for the 2006/2007 fiscal year.

Before the 5 p.m. hearing in which about 25 people representing a coalition for emergency housing relief spoke, the group gathered outside the doors to County Hall.

They chanted and waved signs. They called the gathering ''Show Me The Money.'' They made a peaceful entrance into the commission chamber, filling seats from front to back.

''You come to the black community to get votes. You promise us things and nothing happens,'' Stanley Cohens told the commission. ``It seems like you don't want to use the money on us no matter what. People have families, with children living on the street.''

Shortly before 7 p.m., most of the coalition peacefully made their way out of the chamber. But the public continued to speak at the open forum, mostly complaining about rising property taxes or money needed to fund programs.

Thursday's protest was in response to an investigation by The Miami Herald in July into the Miami-Dade Housing Agency which found more than $22 million in federal and local funds had been spent, but only three of 411 promised homes were built.

A costly redevelopment project known as HOPE VI that promised new affordable houses for hundreds of families displaced from Liberty City's Scott/Carver Homes, is years behind schedule, with staggering overhead costs.