"Why can't those tax dollars go to the African-American community?" Screen asks. "It seems to me that [Marlins owner] Jeffrey Loria would be last in line for those funds." Screen calls Edmonson a follower who has not brought any new initiatives to the table to help her community. "She's a 'me too' vote on the county commission," Screen says.

Screen's comments resonate in the predominantly black residential neighborhood of Allapattah, which Albina Sumner calls home. President of the Allapattah Homeowners Association, Sumner accompanied Screen on her afternoon campaign walk, introducing the hopeful to residents. "I wasn't going to get involved in this commission race until Audrey [Edmonson] voted for the megaplan and to expand development into the Everglades," Sumner says. "That was it for me."

Meanwhile, Edmonson is not taking Screen lightly. This past July 30, during an interview at her campaign headquarters on NW 62nd Street, the commissioner accused Screen of running a negative campaign. "My opponent keeps talking about bringing new ethics to the commission," Edmonson said. "Yet not once have you seen me brought up on any type of corruption charges or had negative publicity."

Val Screen is ready to rumble.
Laura Massa
Val Screen is ready to rumble.

Edmonson gave up her mayoral seat on the Village of El Portal council in 2006 and was appointed by the Miami-Dade County Commission to replace Barbara Carey-Shuler, who had resigned suddenly. As Carey-Shuler's anointed successor, Edmonson sits on the dais next to Natacha Seijas — the local political equivalent of going from pitching in single-A baseball to joining the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

In her 20-minute meeting with New Times, Edmonson defended her performance, pointing out she has sided against developers and county contractors who have donated to her campaign. She cited as an example her vote against the Crosswinds project, a controversial mixed-used residential development proposed for Overtown. "I don't feel I owe someone because they gave me a campaign contribution," Edmonson says. "I have a mind of my own."

Nevertheless, just two years of incumbency throws an insurmountable advantage to Edmonson, says Mario Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum. "Short of indictment or incarceration," he says, "you can't get them out of their seat." The root of the problem, Artecona adds, is the amount of money officeholders raise from the business community.

"I constantly hear complaints from business members about the low quality of our elected officials, yet their names are all over the incumbents' campaign reports," Artecona grouses. "In this town, it is easier to write a check than to make a statement."

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