Commissioner Natacha Seijas was feeling extra generous with taxpayer
dollars. She promised to transfer $750,000 in affordable housing
funds from her district to the district of green Commissioner Jean
Monestime, who caved to Seija's suggestion that he take more time to
reconsider his plan to rescind $1.5 million in general obligation
bond funds for a project being developed by Opa-Locka Mayor Myra
It was Monestime's first test fighting for one of his agenda items during the county commission's infrastructure and land use committee, which Seijas chairs. The Haitian American politician was looking to undo two of his predecesssor Dorrin Rolle's last acts as county commissioner this past November 4, before Monestime took office.
Rolle had awarded the $1.5 million to Taylor's New Beginning Village and $6.5 million for a project called Tradewinds at 1921 NW 79th Street using his district's share of $137 million in general obligation bond money the county commission set aside for affordable housing and economic development project.
Commissioners are allowed to dole out the funds as they see fit, even without competitive bidding. Monestime defeated Rolle in last year's general election to represent District Two, which includes parts of Liberty City, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Opa-Locka.
During yesterday's meeting, Monestime said he is working on a comprehensive plan to address the housing and economic needs of his district. He explained that the $9 million awarded to New Beginning and Tradewinds could be "strategically applied to greater benefit" elsewhere in his district.
"We are all responsible for making the greatest investment of taxpayer dollars," Monestime said. "I want the latitude of completing my comprehensive plan in an effort to truly bring better opportunities in my district, which is in dire need of it."
However, Seijas and Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district also includes Opa-Locka, weren't interested in Monestime's vision. After allowing Taylor to inform the committee that without the $1.5 million New Beginning could not secure additional financing from private lenders, Seijas asked Monestime if he would let the Opa-Locka mayor's non-profit group keep the money.
Watching Seijas put on how she "is very close to the area in Opa-Locka" and how she has "always supported the needs in your community" and how she "even travels through it" on her way to County Hall was about as believable as her love and affection for manatees. The recall against her can't happen soon enough.
Monestime initially held his ground, even when Jordan told him that overturning a previous commissioner's legacy was, well, a faux pas no respectable county elected official should engage in. "We tend to respect each other's designations," Jordan intoned. "I guess I am coming from a different place."
Monestime responded by calling for a vote on his item in an attempt to call Seijas' and Jordan's bluff. "See we don't want to do that," Seijas told him. "We don't want to vote against you because we understand your district's needs. Perhaps if there is a lack of information that has not been provided by [New Beginning] and the mayor, you would come to an understanding."
Sensing Seijas and Jordan weren't going to budge for the rookie commissioner, Monestime agreed to delay a vote until the next committee meeting in February. That's when Seijas offered her tribute.
"I'm going to make you an offer you will only get here," she said. "I will give you half of the funds I have left over for my district, which is about $750,000."
"Oh madam chair that is wonderful!" Monestime responded. Banana Republican couldn't help but detect a tinge of sarcasm in the District 2 commissioner's exclamation. The committee did vote to allow Monestime's request to rescind the $6.5 million from Tradewinds to go before the full county commission for a vote.