||Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Johnson-Stacks read the foregoing proposed ordinance into the record.
Chairwoman Edmonson said that she put this item on the agenda for discussion because some of the residents in her district had expressed to her major concerns, including security in the public housing developments. She stated that the residents wanted to feel safe and confident that their children could play outside safely. She noted some incidents had occurred regarding the cameras in the Arthur Mays Housing Development, and asked whether the cameras were working properly in this development.
Mr. Greg Fortner, Director, Public Housing and Community Development Department (PHCD), noted some of the cameras in Arthur Mays were working and others were not. He indicated that his department was in the process of upgrading this system. He said that the system in Liberty Square was more state-of-the art, and had approximately 24 cameras. He stated that they were trying to put cameras in all of the large family developments. He said that some of the residents at Culmer in Overtown were always trying to remove the cameras, but this was harder to do in Liberty Square, because the cameras had been placed higher. He indicated that his department planned to place the cameras higher in Culmer as well. Mr. Fortner noted his department was moving forward with all camera projects to model those in Liberty Square.
Chairwoman Edmonson asked whether the policing in the developments located in the municipalities was carried out by the municipal police, and if so whether it was possible for the County to work with the municipal police to increase security at these public housing developments.
Mr. Fortner noted Liberty Square and Culmer were within the Miami City limits. He said that the only possible effective crime prevention program had to include the cooperation of the law enforcement agency responsible in that jurisdiction.
Chairwoman Edmonson said that she had a meeting with Miami-Dade Police Department Director J.D. Patterson, and also with the City of Miami Police Department, in reference to the County and City police working together. She also indicated that residents had inquired whether it would be possible to put a gate in Liberty Square.
Mr. Fortner noted Liberty Square was the County’s property, but it would not be easy to gate this community, which was comprised of 700 units. He said that his department was preparing a community development plan for Liberty Square to replace units, similar to the plan for Scott Carver.
Chairwoman Edmonson said that she did not want another Hope 6. She asked whether the PHCD Department was planning to demolish Liberty Square and then rebuild it.
Mr. Fortner indicated that the best plan would be to replace this huge community, in which the buildings were antiquated; however, the most cost-effective way to do this would be in phases.
Chairwoman Edmonson said she was in favor of doing it in phases, because she did not want people to be relocated all over the County against their will.
Mr. Fortner said that he had been involved in five Hope 6 projects, including the one in Miami. He noted people were misinformed about Hope 6; there was a perception that people were living under bridges. He observed that 1100 families were relocated with Section 8 vouchers and 70 percent of these families did not want to return because they received more benefits with a Section 8 voucher.
Chairwoman Edmonson stressed that a number of families said they were not able to be relocated back into Scott Carver, and just last week her office staff contacted Mr. Fortner regarding one such family.
Mr. Fortner said that this case was the exception, and not the rule.
Commissioner Monestime noted the experience of Hope 6 Housing in Liberty City left a bitter taste. However, he said he concurred that Mr. Fortner’s experience may have been different, because he was not in Miami when Hope 6 was implemented. He pointed out that it was important to learn from that past experience so that people who wanted better housing did not have to go through such a painful experience in the future. He said this was the reason the commissioners wanted to ensure that it was done in phases, allowing residents to move within their communities, noting it would save the County a great deal of money.
Mr. Fortner indicated that his department did not have the funds presently to embark on such a project.
Commissioner Monestime noted this location was very valuable, and in the future this property could look like North Park.
Commissioner Diaz asked how long it would take for this to become a reality.
Mr. Fortner said that his department was depending on the federal government for the funding, but was also exploring the public/private partnerships.
Commissioner Diaz said that perhaps the Hope 6 project was not carried out properly, noting sometimes it is not what we do, but how people perceive it. He pointed out that these projects were important to the residents and were very much needed. Therefore, it was crucial to find a better solution moving forward, and to explore public/private partnerships to carry out such projects. Commissioner Diaz said that it was also necessary to explain things properly to the residents, and to work with developers who were able to implement such a project correctly. He asked Mr. Fortner to develop policies for the rehabilitation of public housing developments involving the least amount of disruption to the residents of these facilities.
Mr. Fortner indicated that his department already had a blueprint, as it rehabilitated approximately 800 units in the senior housing developments with the $80 million that it received in tax credits. He explained that each of the residents had to move out temporarily before moving back in, and there were no complaints about this process because the residents knew that they were going back to their units.
Commissioner Diaz pointed out that the ideal situation would be for such projects to be carried out by a developer who was respectful of the residents and the situation they were in, especially the elderly. He stressed the importance of learning from experience, to avoid repeating the past.
Mr. Fortner noted his department had extensive meetings with the residents on every aspect of the project, including relocation.
Chairwoman Edmonson said that the City of Miami Police Department officers complained that they could not access the content of the security cameras installed in the public housing developments, because their broadband network did not match the County’s. She asked Mr. Fortner how he intended to solve this problem.
Mr. Fortner indicated that the main police station for the City and the cameras in Liberty Square needed to be connected. However, the City of Miami Police Department’s squad cars had the required wireless technology to view the content of the cameras.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted it did not make sense to have cameras if the police officers were unable to view their content, and asked how the County could connect the City of Miami Police Department with the cameras in the public housing developments.
Mr. Fortner pointed out that the cameras were not manned 24 hours a day. He explained that the cameras only recorded activity at certain spots, and the police could use that in case a crime was committed in those spots to help with their investigation.
Chairwoman Edmonson reiterated that the City of Miami Police Department officers told her that they were unable to view the content of the cameras because of the broadband connection.
Chairwoman Edmonson requested a report, possibly within the next 30 days, regarding the measures that the County was taking to ensure that security was being enhanced in its public housing developments, including recommendations or plans to enhance security in the future.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted the residents of the public housing developments informed her that they were having problems communicating with the site managers and with the Tenants’ Councils. They said that the Tenants’ Councils did not invite all residents to their meetings. She asked what the Administration could do to ensure that all residents were informed of the Tenants’ Councils meetings.
Mr. Fortner noted there were two dozen Tenants’ Councils, which were independent bodies, each with its own personality. He said that his department had tasked the site managers to hold community meetings at least quarterly if not monthly. He indicated that they wanted to work cooperatively with the Tenants’ Councils, but they reserved the right to call meetings.
Chairwoman Edmonson suggested that in the future when they called meetings, they should make sure that all of the residents were invited. The site managers should distribute the flyers and invitations to ensure that every single resident was receiving one, to avoid rumors, recommended Chairwoman Edmonson.
Mr. Fortner indicated that his staff had already put this recommendation into practice.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted she was informed that there were few recreational programs, and community spaces for the youth and the elderly in the public housing developments, and they had difficulty leasing such facilities. She observed that the County had built a playground in Liberty Square, had put in a fitness trail, and was waiting for the City of Miami manager to finalize the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which they signed; however, the playground was originally included in the MOU, but since it was built by the County instead, the MOU had to be revised. She asked how soon this would be done.
Mr. Fortner said that hopefully, the MOU would be signed shortly, as it was approved by the City of Miami manager.
Assistant County Attorney Terrence Smith indicated that the legislative item had already been prepared, and the County Attorneys were waiting for the City of Miami manager to give them the revised MOU that would be attached to the resolution before presenting it to the Board. He observed that the County had shouldered one of the City’s responsibilities by constructing the playground.
Chairwoman Edmonson noted the City of Miami manager had been promising the Liberty Square residents for years that the city would give the children a playground, yet it had never been built.
Assistant County Attorney Smith recalled that the Board adopted a previous resolution approving a prior MOU with the City of Miami. At the time, the City said that it had funding for the playground; yet, several years later there was still no executed MOU nor the playground that was promised, noted the Assistant County Attorney.
Chairwoman Edmonson stated that was the reason she had the playground built, and was planning to build a fitness trail, as well. She asked Mr. Fortner to accompany her on a tour of Liberty Square to determine how best to build “Tot Lots”.
Mr. Fortner noted even though Liberty Square had a number of courtyards with young children, there was nothing except grassy fields in these courtyards.
Chairwoman Edmonson thanked Mr. Fortner for working with MCI to install the computer lab in the Annie Coleman development. She asked him to give her a report listing the public housing facilities countywide that have a recreational facility, after-school program, or offer special services for the elderly. In addition, Chairwoman Edmonson asked Mr. Fortner to provide her with any options the County could pursue with regard to public-private partnerships to improve the quality of life in the public housing developments. She said, for example, that the department could collaborate with the Miami-Dade Police Department through the Police Athletic League (PAL) program.
Mr. Fortner said that the County could offer space and clientele, which was the reason one property may offer one type of service and not another. He clarified that the County offered the space rent free for one dollar a month.
Chairwoman Edmonson asked Mr. Fortner to advertise the availability of space at public housing developments for public/private partnerships to offer services to the residents. She said it appeared that the crime rate had increased in the public housing developments, noting the Administration had to be pro-active to combat crime.
Mr. Fortner noted he agreed that adding services would help. However, he stressed that his department could only offer space and clientele, but could not pay for these services.
Chairwoman Edmonson pointed out that Mr. Fortner’s department could develop partnership with some of the community-based organizations, and all they would need was the space. She asked Mr. Fortner to update her on his efforts on a monthly basis.