The Redland Menace

For the past five years, Forrest Gordon and other Redland residents have peppered county Commissioner Dennis Moss with requests to allow them to vote on incorporating to form Miami-Dade's 32nd municipality. Some Redland dwellers want independence from county rule in order to protect the 64-square-mile rural area in the unincorporated south from development.

But every time incorporation activists appear to make headway with the vice chairman of the county commission, Moss restates his position or comes up with a new delay, says Gordon, secretary of the Friends of Redland, an organization that has filed a lawsuit against the county demanding residents be allowed to vote on incorporation. "Moss has alienated an important segment of his constituency," Gordon says. "He is not a man of his word."

Friends of the Redland collected signatures from fourteen percent of the Redland's registered voters as required for a referendum and presented them during a commission meeting this past December 14. But Moss persuaded his twelve colleagues to delay any discussion regarding a vote until Redlanders had settled their differences regarding boundaries and annexations with Goulds and Plant, two predominantly black neighborhoods in Moss's district also in the midst of incorporation drives. "This area was told to work out their differences with their neighbors before they came back to this board," Moss blasted from the dais. "I feel they are trying to pull an end run on the process. It's very disrespectful and it shows a lack of good faith on the part of these individuals."

But Redland residents counter that Moss refuses to respond to their phone calls and e-mails, even telling them not to show up at his monthly town hall meetings at the South Dade Government Center. Gordon relates that, at Moss's request, he negotiated with Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace. (Florida City is attempting an annexation of land that is within the proposed Redland boundaries.)

"When Otis and I came to an agreement, Moss was in disbelief," Gordon continues. "Then he asked us to have some discussions with Goulds and Plant. Every time it looks like we are coming to the end of the game, Moss changes the rules."

Gordon and his fellow activists believe Moss's behavior may be attributed to the overwhelming campaign support he receives from local builders, bankers, Realtors, and the lobbyists who want to pave over the Redland with shopping centers and dwellings. According to his 2004 re-election campaign finance report, Moss rounded up $197,000 in contributions, mostly from special interests. His prominent donors included developers Armando Codina, Raul Masvidal, Louis Wolfson III, and high-profile zoning lawyers like Juan Mayol.

Moss did not return phone calls seeking comment.


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