| Columns |

Uncle Luke: Keon Hardemon Gets No Respect

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon
Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke defends Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon.

Keon Hardemon is favored to win the District 3 Miami-Dade County commission race to replace Audrey Edmonson. Yet Miami's most successful Black city commissioner never gets the respect he's earned.

Hardemon's haters enjoy jumping on the young African-American politician for allegedly only looking out for himself and his family. For example, Miami filmmaker and self-anointed government watchdog Billy Corben routinely refers to the 36-year-old City of Miami commissioner as "Pay to Play" Hardemon.

In fact, Hardemon is a law-abiding attorney who is too smart to get caught up in any bullshit. If he was doing anything illegal, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle would waste no time charging Hardemon. After all, Rundle doesn't hesitate when it comes to prosecuting Black politicians for petty crimes and misdemeanors.

The local media has tried to tear Hardemon down, but nothing ever sticks. The Miami Herald published hit jobs about disgruntled developers suing the city, alleging the commissioner's uncle and political adviser, Billy Hardemon, was shaking them down — the insinuation being that to get Hardemon's attention, you have to hire his uncle. One of the two lawsuits, filed by the developer R. Donahue Peebles to stop an Overtown project that will bring 1,100 jobs to the neighborhood, has already been partially dismissed.

The Florida Bulldog wrote articles about Hardemon having a conflict of interest because he has awarded no-bid grants to the Martin Luther King Jr. Economic Development Corp., which is chaired by Billy Hardemon, and to the Foundation of Community Assistance and Leadership (FOCAL), where Barbara Hardemon, Billy's wife and the commissioner's aunt, is the executive director.

Both nonprofits provide legitimate services to Miami's neediest residents, such as teaching them financial literacy, assisting them with purchasing new cars for work, feeding and educating children in afterschool programs, and funding trips for inner-city kids to places they otherwise would never get to see. What's more, both organizations have been receiving city funding since Hardemon was a teenager and long before his political aspirations. Every Black city commissioner since Bill Clinton was president has given grants to Martin Luther King Jr. EDC and FOCAL. There is no conflict.

He's just the next Black politician with a big target on his back. Previous relentless attacks ended with one of Hardemon's predecessors, Arthur Teele Jr., killing himself in the lobby of the Miami Herald in 2005. Another former Black city commissioner, Michelle Spence-Jones, fought bogus criminal charges for more than a year starting in 2010. Rundle was forced to drop the case because of a lack of evidence.

Hardemon can't be accused of any crimes because he hasn't committed any. Instead, he's got a long record of accomplishments. He secured $30 million from the developer of the Magic City project in Little Haiti that will be used to build affordable housing and make community improvements in the neighborhood. He convinced world-renowned, award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson to open a restaurant in Overtown, Miami's oldest historically Black neighborhood that is going through an economic revival. And he made sure that Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City was completely renovated, something we have been waiting 40 years to happen.

It seems like any time a Black politician does business with Black people, they get accused of doing something wrong. But when they're doing business with a Cuban, it's all good.

Miami's Black community loves Hardemon because he has done more during his brief tenure on the city commission than any other Black politician in South Florida. Hardemon delivers for the people and that's why his detractors hate him.

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