Monday, July 31, 2006

The Real House of Lies: Government Causes Housing Crisis

As the housing crisis in Miami-Dade County, and across the country, mushroomed, with dire especially for Black and poor people, many expected local, state and even federal governments to step in to provide relief to the forced removals, high home prices and development run amok. Instead, governments have led the charge for zoning variances, high rise developments and sweetheart deals for politically connected developers.

The recent high profile media reports detailing the millions spent for affordable housing never built raises obvious questions about corruption and cronyism of elected and housing officials in Miami. However, the relationship between the actions of Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA) and the red hot housing market raises deeper questions about who the government represents and their real role in the housing market.

Logic would dictate that during an affordable housing crisis, the local housing agency would create more affordable housing. However, in the mid 1990s, as the housing wait list grew to over 40,000 people, the exact opposite occurred: MDHA was actively eliminating affordable housing units.

Through HOPE VI, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted over $100 million to raze 851 public housing units in Liberty City's Scott Projects and replace it with 450 overall units, including only 80 public housing units, and failed in a bid to similarly decimate the Liberty Square Projects. In 2002, as the crisis reached epidemic proportions, MDHA vacated over 1,000 units while the housing wait list swelled to over 63,000 people.

After months of actions, negotiations and outright begging, community groups such as the Miami Workers Center and LIFFT compelled the BCC to earmark $1.5 million just to fill the vacancies. One year later, however, the $1.5 million was spent, but the vacancies increased from 1,000 to over 1,700. The BCC continued to drag its feet, ignore pleas and outright refused to hear activists on the subject, at one point avoiding the agenda item with security forcing us from the Commission chambers. To this day, there is no accounting of the $1.5 million.

During the same time frame, the BCC awarded millions of dollars to politically connected developers, who never did get around to building affordable housing, but somehow managed to donate money to the re-election campaigns of the same commissioners who gifted them the contract.

The elected officials and even the mass media spin the facts, attempting to convince us there is nothing more going on here than incompetence and corruption, nothing that a few arrests can't solve. That, however, rests on the assumption that the role of the BCC and MDHA is to serve the interests of poor Black and Latino people. Nothing could further from the truth.

Does anyone really believe that none of the 13 elected officials, with their paid staff, and scores of housing agency professionals were unable to recognize the housing crisis? Or that they did not realize the solution was to build more affordable housing, not less? Or that the campaign contributors and friends were getting paid for doing no work? These are professionals and they knew exactly what they were doing.

Developers reap millions from the "housing boom," but the other side of that coin is the rising housing prices and gentrification of our communities, problems which many expect the government to address on our behalf. However, because government officials represent the interests of the developers, government actions have quietly, but deliberately, spurred gentrification and the housing crisis, not alleviated them.

Eliminating public housing, via either razing or vacating, reduces public affordable housing, thereby enabling private building owners, who are no longer competing with public housing, to raise rent prices at will. Government sponsorship, through zoning variances, tax breaks and other support, of certain projects, advance the gentrification of our neighborhoods.

So, don't believe the hype. The BCC and MDHA were not ineffective in serving the interests of the poor, they were effective in serving the interests of the rich developers. Even when a project is actually completed, the final product never seems to meet the needs of the residents. The reason is because the real objective of the project was to meet the needs of the developer, not the residents.

Far from failing because they did not alleviate the problems of the housing crisis and gentrification, the BCC was spectacularly successful in exacerbating those problems, to the benefit of the wealthy developers who profit from our misery. The MDHA scandal, then, is not a case of incompetence on their part, but rather, a case of naive expectations on ours.

So do not be fooled: this government does not represent your interests. Maybe its time we organize to get ourselves one that does.

Max Rameau is with the Center for Pan-African Development

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rally Against Housing Crisis

Greetings All:

On Friday, July 28, 2006 at 11:00am, community groups and people will rally against the housing crisis in Miami-Dade County and the public corruption which is fostering the crisis. The speak out gives people the chance to tell how they feel about the situation.

Join the movement to demand social justice for the poor and criminal justice for the crooks stealing our tax money.

When: Friday, July 28, 2006 at 11:00am
Where: Stephen P. Clark Government Center
            111 NW 1st St.
            Downtown Miami

Check the press release below.



Residents Speak Out Against Housing Crisis and Corruption Public outrage in the wake of 'House of Lies' the Miami Herald expose

MIAMI – Low-income residents, community organizations and the general public will speak out against the Housing Crisis and political corruption at the steps of county government, Stephen P. Clarke Building, Friday July 28th at 11 am. The Community Speak Out will be an open forum where impacted families will voice their experiences, state their concerns and offer solutions to the problems exposed by the recent Miami Herald expose on affordable housing in Miami.

In the four part series "House of Lies" the Miami Herald exposed years of corruption within the MDHA and county government that has a had dire repercussions for Miami's low-income residents. In the height of a housing crisis, the Herald exposed a major causes of the delays in construction is elected and appointed county staff. The series has exposed the most hurtful kind of greed.

Leading the charge for putting forward a people's response is Low-Income Families Fighting Together (LIFFT), Miami Workers Center (MWC) and Power U
Center for Social Change. All three organizations have been organizing residents in Miami's low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods in opposition to gentrification. Power U has long standing campaign against the Crosswinds development in Overtown.  MWC and LIFFT have a long standing campaigns in Liberty City around  the destruction of HOPE VI Scott-Carver Homes and throughout Miami-Dade County in the Fill the Vacancies Campaign for public housing access.

Tony Romano, Organizing Director of MWC said of the widespread corruption and failure of MDHA and the County, "For years these people have been making money on the backs of poor Black and Latino people. Real justice would be for those who are really responsible for this dismal situation to resign and for the money and resources to be returned to the community for community led development of housing."

Denise Perry, director of Power U referencing the Crosswinds project in Overtown stated,  "This is exactly why there needs to be an accountability process that engages the community. We need to stop this giving of our tax money to developers, for their profit and our detriment. We will continue to fight for the rights of the people in the process and government accountability."

"They finally got some of these thieves. We have been shouting about these crooks for years: MDHA, Model City Trust, Dorrin Rolle. And we will keep shouting until all of them are exposed for what they are." said Ms. Mary Wadley, leader of LIFFT.

The Community Speak Out will be the continuation of longer fights for justice for Miami's poor residents.
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VISUALS:  Residents speaking out. Banners. Signs.

Power U Center
1633 NW 3rd Ave.
Miami, FL 33136

Saturday, July 15, 2006

We Condemn US Attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan- August 1998

Why We Condemn the US Attack on the Sudan and Afghanistan
August 1998

On Thursday, August 20, 1998 the US launched a vicious attack on two locations the US claims to be terrorist hot spots, near Khartoum, Sudan in Africa and Kabul, Afghanistan in the Middle East. While the attacks were carried out unannounced, they were not completely unexpected, particularly in light of the terrorist bombings of two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, and the characterization of the bombers as "animals" by Bill Clinton.

Aside from the obvious attempt by the White House to change the course of national discussion from Clinton's sex scandal to Clinton's military might, and the morally disturbing questions raised in the killing of people for public relations advancements, the US bombings of the Sudan and Afghanistan were wrong, they must be condemned and every effort must be made to prevent any further attacks on national sovereignty and African people.

It is important to directly address the very issue used to justify the US bombings in the minds of so many people- the attacks on two US embassies in Africa. Firstly, the opposition to US military, cultural and economic dominance and influence in the world is a legitimate issue debated, argued and engaged in numerous regions around the world, including South America, Central America, Eastern Europe, parts of Western Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East and the entire continent of Africa.

US Imperialism faces opposition across the globe from all walks of life. It is vital to keep in mind that the US is able to maintain it's own position of power and unwelcomed presence throughout the world with military might, which includes soldiers, guns, warplanes and weapons of mass destruction. In efforts to keep "friendly" regimes in place, the US has eagerly supported brutal dictators, murders and, yes, terrorists, as a means to achieve very questionable ends.

Because they targeted, injured and killed so many civilians, primarily Africans, the acts of resistance against the US presence in Kenya and Tanzania were wrong and should be condemned. There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking justice for the perpetrators of those acts. To be fair and equitable in the distribution of blame, it is only just to condemn the US for it's own support of terrorism and brutal dictators.


In what is developing into a disturbing pattern of behavior, the US once again has cultivated an ally to achieve specific objectives, only to later condemn and target that same individual or group. It happened with US support and subsequent condemnation of the brutal Duvalier regime in Haiti (followed by the CIA employed military junta); it happened with countless US trained military leaders in South and Central America, guilty of crimes against their people and humanity; the US supported Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega a few short years prior to the invasion, kidnapping and ultimate trial and incarceration of him; and the US had no problem with the psychopathic tendencies of Saddam Hussein until his invasion of oil rich and friendly Kuwait.

In the same way, during the illegal and immoral Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which began in 1979, during the throws of the Cold War, America had few qualms providing Osama Bin Laden and others like him with financial, technical and material support as long as all terrorist acts were directed towards people the US did not care for.

Without making a judgment one way or the other about bin Laden and his theology/ideology, his objectives and methods appear to have changed little over the past 20 years- the removal of all foreign presence from Muslim populated lands in the Middle East through a military campaign which may include civilians as targets. As such, his disposition towards the US, which has a sizable military presence in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries, to the chagrin of most people in the region, should not come as a surprise to anyone because it is consistent with his theological/ideological position and prior behavior.

Because, dependent upon the strategical value of the civilians killed, the US appears to support murderers and even terrorists in the region and other parts of the world, the strong pronouncements against terrorism which served as the rallying points for the bombings of the Sudan and Afghanistan are seriously called into question. If America is opposed to terrorism, it must be opposed to ALL terrorism, not just the terrorism it does not fund or control, or the terrorism which adversely effects US interests.

Continued support for large scale murderers and terrorists undermines US credibility and moral authority in making proclamations against terrorism. For those with whom notions of moral authority carry little weight, the very motives of people who indignantly claim to be against something they are active participants in themselves must come into question.


The US military bombed sites in the Sudan and Afghanistan as retaliation against Osama Bin Laden, the alleged perpetrator of the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. While there is little doubt that bin Laden himself is a terrorist, capable of planning and carrying out such attacks, it is unclear if US intelligence has proven that bin Laden in fact was the one behind those specific bombings.

According to the pop-psychological profiles of bin Laden- undoubtably provided by US intelligence- he is something of an ego maniac desperate for attention. While motives for denying his involvement exist, recognition as the mastermind behind the embassy bombings would blow up bin Laden's stature and reputation in the region. The US has provided little, if any, proof of bin Laden's involvement, and the mainstream media has neither quoted sources outside of the CIA, state department and Pentagon or provided a critical analysis of the official US government position.

The fundamental dilemma facing those attempting to make educated judgments about culpability for the embassy bombings is that we must choose between the word of a renown terrorist versus the word of a renown terrorist organization- the CIA and the military industrial complex- with it's propensity to exaggerate, fabricate evidence and flat out lie to justify their military objectives.

The US chose to attack a pharmaceutical company in the Sudan- which a high ranking state department official declared, under the cover of anonymity, was unable to prove it produced pharmaceuticals. Less than a week after the attack, pictures of the flattened building revealed countless bottles of medicine and medicine producing machines blown to smithereens. The attack of a tent city in Afghanistan was justified because it was a suspected training ground for paramilitary groups who conduct military operations, including those directed towards civilians.

The logic behind tent city bombing was that the location served as a training school for terrorists, and therefore, in order to punish for previous terrorist acts and to prevent future terrorist training, it was an essential target.

On Friday, August 21, 1998, the Miami Herald declared in an editorial that US attacks on a terrorist compound in Afghanistan were "amply justified self-defense." In an ironic, but surely unintentional juxtaposition of articles, the opposite page featured an opinion from Florida Council of Churches executive director, Fred Morris.

Morris is a former missionary who was kidnapped and tortured in 1974 by the Fourth Army of the Brazilian Military. According to Morris his abusers "bragged" of their graduation from the US funded and operated School of the Americas, then based in Panama, now based in Fort Benning, Georgia.

According to Morris, "thousands of Latin Americans have been trained by the US Army at the SOA," with many of the graduates applying their learnings at the expense of their own people. Morris claims the brutal human rights abuses meted out by dictatorships in South and Central America were largely conducted by graduates of the SOA. This included not only the highly publicized murders of nuns and priests in El Salvador, but the murder of over 200,000 people in Guatemala, all led by SOA graduates.

Morris writes "In 1996 the US Army released copies of training manuals that promoted the use of torture, execution, illegal detention, truth serum, and other human rights violations." Needles to say, the School of the Americas remains open today, teaching lessons to the next generation of military terrorists.

While some will forward the notion that America is subject to special rules and considerations not applicable to the rest of the world, the truth is that wrong acts are wrong. As such, if the US can bomb Afghanistan for allegedly training terrorists, countries such as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Columbia and Guatemala should have the right to bomb Fort Benning, Georgia in retaliation for the hundreds of thousands of murders and acts of terror which were committed with the complicity and training of the School of the Americas, as well to prevent the graduation of a new generation of terrorist trained by the US military.

If it is right for the US to bomb Afghanistan for training terrorist, it must be right for other countries to bomb the US for training terrorist. Those who cannot stomach the notion of an attack on the US in retaliation for or prevention of terrorism, must actively oppose attempts by the US to do the same.

As a side note, there are plenty of terrorist training facilities in Montana, Oklahoma, North Carolina and other Freeman strongholds which can keep the US military occupied for some time.

As previously mentioned, the targeting of civilians is not an acceptable means of liberation warfare, and those injured in the Embassy bombings have the right to justice. The pursuit of justice internationally for the victims of the embassy bombings, however, must be tempered with the same concepts of justice which apply- or at least should apply- in the US and which people who live in the US demand for themselves. In short, you cannot kill several people in two locations in pursuit of one person who is accused, but not convicted, of a crime.

There is a term for attacking innocents along with the guilty in retaliation for a particular action or policy- that term is TERRORISM and the US is as guilty of terrorism for the dual bombings of August 20 as those responsible for the dual bombings of the US embassies two weeks prior. In the same way rebel groups are scolded not to demonstrate their opposition on non-participants, the US should be held to at least the same standard and expected not to bomb wide areas in pursuit of one man or a particular group of people.

Finally, we must oppose US aggression abroad to prevent the continued use and abuse of Africa as the military theater for the same immoral games of wars by proxy which defined the Cold War. For all the debate about who won each round of bombings, the cold hard facts are that African people lost them both.

Max Rameau

The Center for Pan-African Development

Miami CopWatch

Friday, July 14, 2006

Center for Pan-African Development Blog

This is the beginning of the Blog for the Center for Pan-African Development.

Blogs are authored by Max Rameau, unless otherwise stated.

Thank you and see you soon.


Max Rameau