| Columns |

Next Generation of Black Politicians Is Changing Miami for the Better

A brash young generation of black politicians is slowly wresting power away from the old guard beholden to developers, corporate executives, and lobbyists. And that is great for Miami's African-American community.

For too long, pols such as former Congresswoman Carrie Meek and ex-county Commissioners Betty Ferguson and Barbara Carey-Shuler kept a tight leash on black Miami's political power. They handpicked their heirs and snuggled up to the likes of Ron Book, the multimillionaire lawyer whose clients have included the Miami Dolphins, AT&T, AutoNation, the University of Miami, and even local governments such as Miami-Dade County. Meek, Ferguson, and Carey-Shuler paved the way for their successors, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and county Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Audrey Edmonson, respectively. They have never met a lobbyist or developer whose money they wouldn't take.

But ever since Keon Hardemon was elected to the Miami City Commission in 2013, a small group of rising black pols is setting a new agenda. Hardemon, along with state Sen. Oscar Braynon II, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, and recently elected Miami-Dade School Board member Steve Gallon III, are sending the message that Miami's African-American neighborhoods are no longer for sale to the highest bidders.

As chairman of the Miami City Commission, Hardemon has extracted tens of millions of dollars from developers in Overtown and Wynwood that will be used for housing and economic aid in the city's most blighted neighborhood. Gilbert championed a city lawsuit against the Miami Dolphins that led to a voter referendum earlier this year giving Miami Gardens power to regulate development at Hard Rock Stadium. Braynon, who fought for a new state program to distribute clean needles to drug addicts for free, recently won the minority leadership post for the 15-member Democratic legislative caucus. And Gallon succeeded in passing school board legislation that will fix failing schools in the inner city.

These new political jacks followed a blueprint similar to the one I used when I ran for county mayor in 2011 to appeal to young voters.

Change didn't happen under Obama. But with these guys, it finally will.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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