Black vs. White, Miami Remains the Same

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Alex Izaguirre
Just got back from the Spence-Jones Vindication Show in Overtown. The thunderstorms had just subsided outside the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church at 301 NW 9th Street. But inside Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones' angry voice boomed throughout the cavernous assembly hall. She was flanked by 30 to 40 supporters.

"It's been almost two years of headaches and heartaches for me and my family," Spence-Jones intoned, "all based on innuendos and false allegations to divert attention from others' misdoings."

She didn't name them by name, but reading between the lines of her vindication speech, it was clear Spence-Jones was referring to ex-City Manager Joe Arriola and Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the two individuals who provided the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office with second-hand unconfirmed information that she was on the take.

As much as I hate it when politicians play the race card when they are facing possible criminal charges, I can't just dismiss it either in the case of Spence-Jones. After all, Sarnoff is the city's only Anglo commissioner and Arriola is one of the most prominent Anglo Cuban Americans in Miami. Together they initiated a criminal probe into the city's only black, and only female, commissioner.

Spence-Jones has always maintained that Sarnoff came after her following the City Commission's controversial approval of the Mercy Hospital-Related Group condo project to deflect attention away from his own shenanigans.

While he has consistently denied it, Sarnoff was supposedly playing both sides by claiming to be against the project publicly while secretly letting the Related Group - through Arriola - know that he was on board with their rezoning request.

Sarnoff ultimately voted against the project along with Tomas Regalado. Voting in favor were Spence-Jones, Joe Sanchez and Angel Gonzalez.

In response to WPLG reporter Glenna Milberg's question asking Spence-Jones why she believed racism factored into the criminal investigation, the commissioner's attorney Richard Alayon explained:

"There were three votes [for the Mercy project]. At no point was there any innuendo or rumors that the other two votes were influenced by lobbyists. Why were the lobbyists hired to lobby the other commissioners never questioned?...In politics you go after the weakest individual and that was her."

While some political observers may casually dismiss Alayon's remarks, I see his point. Whatever you think of Sanchez and Gonzalez, both of them know how to duke it out in Miami's insidious political landscape, especially against the credibility challenged likes of Arriola and Sarnoff.

And because of appalling behavior from some black community leaders, from ex-U.S. Congresswoman Carrie Meek accepting a free Escalade to County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle hitting up county vendors to donate to his nonprofit agency, it is easy to promote the claim that all black politicians are corrupt. 



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